\ 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 + forHe 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 fora 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 After fumbling earlier on a kick return that set up a Bears go-ahead touchdown, Patterson atoned for his gaffe. Chris Boghossian,, "Cordarrelle Patterson: 7 things to know about the Bears wide receiver and kick returner," 20 Oct. 2019 But the big running back soon atoned for his mistake., "Most read on," 14 Oct. 2019 But the big running back soon atoned for his mistake. oregonlive, "Deshaun Watson outduels Patrick Mahomes as the Houston Texans defeat Kansas City: Recap, score, stats and more," 13 Oct. 2019 But the big running back soon atoned for his mistake. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Watson, Hyde lead Texans to 31-24 victory over Chiefs," 13 Oct. 2019 Moses destroyed the tablets in anger, but the people atoned for their sin, so God forgave them. Christina Maxouris And Doug Criss, CNN, "Everything you wanted to know about Yom Kippur," 8 Oct. 2019 So those who want to improve their standing must atone. al, "Jewish High Holy Days are here," 30 Sep. 2019 Tokyo’s moves to impose trade curbs on Seoul have struck a nerve in South Korea, where many people still harbor resentment over Japan’s brutal colonial rule from 1910 to 1945 and feelings that Japan hasn’t atoned enough for its wartime past. Washington Post, "There’s history behind worsening Seoul-Tokyo trade dispute," 20 Aug. 2019 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

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

14 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for atone

The first known use of atone was in 1574

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More Definitions for atone


How to pronounce atone (audio)

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

Comments on atone

What made you want to look up atone? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not being in agreement or harmony

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