con·​trite | \ kən-ˈtrīt also ˈkän-ˌtrīt How to pronounce contrite (audio) \

Definition of contrite

: feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming a contrite criminal a contrite apology contrite sighs

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Other Words from contrite

contritely adverb
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- and terere, meaning "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 tribulation, 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
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Recent Examples on the Web Beilein understands the severity of his error and is contrite. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "John Beilein apologizes to Cavaliers players after calling them ‘thugs’ when he meant to say ‘slugs’ in Detroit film session," 9 Jan. 2020 The hundreds of text messages between Rosselló and his aides triggered fury that Rosselló’s contrite statements couldn’t dampen. Michael Deibert,, "Puerto Rico’s governor poised to resign amid ongoing protests," 24 July 2019 In what amounted to a resignation statement, the duke was decidedly more contrite than in his BBC interview of a few days earlier. Max Foster, CNN, "Why Britain's Queen Elizabeth had to let Prince Andrew go," 22 Nov. 2019 Mark Dantonio should have been completely contrite after the game. Teddy Greenstein,, "5 things we learned about Big Ten football after Week 7, including the countdown to the game of the year — and possibly the worst team ever. Plus, our updated power rankings.," 13 Oct. 2019 Jack was contrite, Jamal was wise & #Survivor gave it space to develop as a human moment. Eric Todisco,, "Survivor Host Jeff Probst Addresses the 'Durag' Incident: It 'Became a Teaching Moment'," 31 Oct. 2019 But investment banks like Goldman and Morgan Stanley are contrite and asking themselves whether the traditional IPO, however lucrative for them, remains the best means to bring tech firms to market. The Economist, "IPOs are a racket. But try finding something better," 24 Oct. 2019 According to Marian Scott of the Montreal Gazette, the thieves have returned the hand, also taking it upon themselves to leave a rather contrite apology note. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Thieves Return Hand Stolen From Montreal Totem Pole, With an Apology Note," 4 Oct. 2019 On the whole, Spicer came off as humble and self-aware but far from contrite—a triumph of image rehab without accountability. Judy Berman, Time, "Sean Spicer Was an Extremely Good Sport on Dancing With the Stars. That's Exactly the Problem," 17 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'contrite.' 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 contrite

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for contrite

Middle English contrit, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin contritus, from Latin, past participle of conterere to grind, bruise, from com- + terere to rub — more at throw entry 1

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Time Traveler for contrite

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

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Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Contrite.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for contrite


How to pronounce contrite (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of contrite

formal : feeling or showing regret for bad behavior


con·​trite | \ ˈkän-ˌtrīt How to pronounce contrite (audio) , kən-ˈtrīt \

Kids Definition of contrite

: feeling or showing sorrow for having done something bad or wrong : repentant The prince lowered his head so as to appear humbled and contrite.— Sid Fleischman, The Whipping Boy

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More from Merriam-Webster on contrite

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for contrite

Spanish Central: Translation of contrite

Nglish: Translation of contrite for Spanish Speakers

Comments on contrite

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


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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