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 Uproar over the revelations led to a contrite Zuckerberg being grilled by U.S. lawmakers and spurred calls for people to delete their Facebook accounts. Barbara Ortutay, USA TODAY, 26 July 2023 The trial aside, Colbert was most bitter that Fox News won’t have to apologize for spreading false claims about the 2020 elections, nor will its anchors be required to read any contrite statements or retractions on the air. Jonah Valdez, Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 2023 Mark Dove, a defense attorney who represented Lucas in court Monday, told IndyStar that Lucas felt contrite about his behavior. The Indianapolis Star, 12 June 2023 The signing, which immediately set off a firestorm among many fans and media members, finally was renounced by Neely, who cast a contrite tone in the news release. Kevin Paul Dupont,, 6 Nov. 2022 Dressed in a navy blue pantsuit and wearing minimal makeup, Heard fought back tears while recalling a contrite Depp who began sobbing after the alleged incident. Tatiana Siegel, Rolling Stone, 4 May 2022 Even then, you may be removed as a supplier, especially if you are not genuinely contrite and authentic in your remorse for having caused the buyer problems. Greg Story, Forbes, 17 Aug. 2022 Ant is newly contrite. Naomi Xu Elegant, Fortune, 5 Jan. 2021 The nobleman was contrite. Caren Schnur Neile, Sun Sentinel, 3 Oct. 2022 See More

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 9 Dec. 2023.

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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