con·​trite kən-ˈtrīt How to pronounce contrite (audio)
ˈkän-ˌtrīt How to pronounce contrite (audio)
: feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for improper or objectionable behavior, actions, etc.
a contrite criminal
a contrite apology
I have a sense now of his feeling somewhat contrite, or perhaps only abashed.Renata Adler
Ford executives had hoped their efficient, well-publicized recall efforts and contrite approach to customers would enable them to put the tire crisis behind them.Cathy Booth Thomas
contritely adverb
"I'm sorry," he said contritely.
contriteness noun

Did you know?

A person who is contrite may have rubbed someone the wrong way and caused bruised feelings—and there is a hint about the origins of the word in that thought. Contrite came to English by way of Anglo-French from the Latin verb conterere, meaning "to grind" or "to bruise." Conterere, in turn, was formed by combining the prefix com-, meaning "with" or "together," and terere, "to rub." If you've guessed that trite is a cousin of contrite (through terere), you are correct. Other terere descendants in English include detriment and very possibly the familiar verb try.

Examples of contrite in a Sentence

Allbaugh apologized, though it was clear he was hardly contrite. Christopher Cooper &Robert Block, Disaster, 2006
… Teddy was immediately contrite. "That was stupid of me. Forgive me." Jack Higgins, The President's Daughter, 1998
At the airport, the meter registers nine pounds, and of course he had said six or seven. I have a sense now of his feeling somewhat contrite, or perhaps only abashed. Renata Adler, Pitch Dark, 1983
… for days afterward, afraid of himself and worried about his sanity, he would be contrite and terribly ashamed. John Nichols, The Milagro Beanfield War, 1974
being contrite is not enough to spare you an arrest if you're caught shoplifting
Recent Examples on the Web Waving the Bible without being contrite is hypocrisy. Tj Hutchinson, The Denver Post, 24 May 2024 The night before the announcement, an Amazon Alexa executive called one of the Nucleus cofounders with a heads up about the impending product announcement and ended with a contrite apology. Dana Mattioli, Fortune, 22 Apr. 2024 Everyone would be expecting a contrite performance from him, tepid jokes about male-female relationships, jokes about how horrible men were, and so on. Camille Bordas, Harper's Magazine, 30 Mar. 2024 Others were less contrite, blaming the palace for a shoddy communications strategy and a lack of transparency. Anna Russell, The New Yorker, 27 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for contrite 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contrite.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English contrit, borrowed from Anglo-French & Medieval Latin; Anglo-French, borrowed from Medieval Latin contrītus, past participle of Latin conterere "to pound to pieces, crush, wear out or down, exhaust mentally or physically" (Medieval Latin also, "to crush in spirit with a sense of one's sin, render contrite"), from con- con- + terere "to rub, grind, crush, wear down" — more at throw entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of contrite was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near contrite

Cite this Entry

“Contrite.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


: feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a wrong that one has done
a contrite criminal
a contrite apology
contritely adverb
contriteness noun

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