\ ə-ˈtōn How to pronounce atone (audio) \
atoned; atoning

Definition of atone

intransitive verb

: to make amends : to provide or serve as reparation or compensation for something bad or unwelcome usually + for He wanted to atone for his sins.But I think that he has within him a capacity for love, and an unselfishness, which almost atones for his dishonesty.— Anthony Trollope

transitive verb

1 : to make reparation or supply satisfaction for : expiate used in the passive voice with for a crime that must be atoned for
2 obsolete : reconcile

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Did You Know?

Atone comes to us from the combination in Middle English of at and on, the latter of which is an old variant of one. Together they meant "in harmony." (In current English, we use at one with a similar suggestion of harmony in such phrases as "at one with nature.") When it first entered English, atone meant "to reconcile and suggested the restoration of a peaceful and harmonious state between people or groups." These days the verb specifically implies addressing the damage (or disharmony) caused by one's own behavior.

Examples of atone in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

South Koreans continue to press for more reparations to atone for the horrific treatment of the Korean Peninsula by Japanese occupiers and imperialists. Victor Davis Hanson, The Mercury News, "Hanson: The ghosts of World War II," 5 Sep. 2019 After betraying the Starks and getting captured by Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), Theon tries to atone for his mistakes and ends up rescuing Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) from the Boltons and sacrificing himself in the final season so that Bran survives. Ashley Boucher,, "Alfie Allen Reveals How Game of Thrones Creators Pranked Him with Fake Script — and How It Backfired," 14 Aug. 2019 Classy mare could certainly atone for that defeat, especially with the leading combo of Brown and Jose Ortiz in her corner. Bob Clancy,, "Clancy’s Call: Saratoga," 30 Aug. 2019 The Japanese trade measures have stoked public anger in South Korea, where many believe Japan still hasn’t fully atoned for atrocities committed during its colonial occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945. Washington Post, "Thousands of South Koreans protest Japanese trade curbs," 2 Aug. 2019 Redemption Penalties for two infractions cost Benjamin Pedersen an apparent win Friday, but the 20-year-old Dane atoned with an impressive 6.934-second victory in the second half of the weekend doubleheader. Dave Kallmann, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Austin Cindric's frantic dash, and other nuggets from the Xfinity Series at Road America," 24 Aug. 2019 Barca will be desperate to atone for consecutive seasons of miraculous defeats, and Diego Simeone's Atleti are always a threat., "Why Real Madrid Fans Shouldn't Be Overly Optimistic Despite Summer Spending Spree," 7 July 2019 That means key characters have probably already died, leaving an all-star cast led by Don Johnson, Jeremy Irons, Regina King, Louis Gossett Jr. and Tim Blake Nelson to renew or atone for their legacy. Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, "Superheroes behaving badly: 12 crusading TV series target mature audiences," 4 Aug. 2019 Atonement is a process Germany’s efforts to atone for the Holocaust were not limited to money. Bernd Reiter, Quartz, "What US slavery reparations and post-Holocaust Germany have in common," 2 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'atone.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of atone

1574, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

History and Etymology for atone

Middle English, to become reconciled, from at on in harmony, from at + on one

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Statistics for atone

Last Updated

3 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for atone

The first known use of atone was in 1574

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More Definitions for atone



English Language Learners Definition of atone

formal : to do something good as a way to show that you are sorry about doing something bad


\ ə-ˈtōn How to pronounce atone (audio) \
atoned; atoning

Kids Definition of atone

: to do something to make up for a wrong … her grandmother watched over her with untiring devotion, as if trying to atone for some past mistake …— Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

More from Merriam-Webster on atone

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with atone

Spanish Central: Translation of atone

Britannica English: Translation of atone for Arabic Speakers

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