Definition of contrite
- a contrite criminal
- a contrite apology
- contrite sighs
being contrite is not enough to spare you an arrest if you're caught shoplifting
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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.
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