con·​tri·​tion kən-ˈtri-shən How to pronounce contrition (audio)
: the state of being contrite : repentance
She shed tears of contrition for her sins.
Choose the Right Synonym for contrition

penitence, repentance, contrition, compunction, remorse mean regret for sin or wrongdoing.

penitence implies sad and humble realization of and regret for one's misdeeds.

absolution is dependent upon sincere penitence

repentance adds the implication of a resolve to change.

repentance accompanied by a complete change of character

contrition stresses the sorrowful regret that constitutes true penitence.

tearful expressions of contrition

compunction implies a painful sting of conscience especially for contemplated wrongdoing.

had no compunctions about taking back what is mine

remorse suggests prolonged and insistent self-reproach and mental anguish for past wrongs and especially for those whose consequences cannot be remedied.

thieves untroubled by feelings of remorse

Examples of contrition in a Sentence

Were her tears a true sign of contrition? we were moved to forgive by his tearful expressions of contrition
Recent Examples on the Web What is the proper response to these rude and impatient co-workers? Stop moving — thereby leaving yourself positioned between your co-worker and the bathroom door — and, with a look of concern and contrition, ask if everything is okay. Jacobina Martin, Washington Post, 26 July 2023 Kimmel’s quip, however, had serious undertones and was part of a chorus of commentators and anchors who questioned and criticized the company for taking the money without a demand for public contrition or a retraction from the conservative-leaning network. Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 2023 Since then, about 1,000 participants have been arrested, many racking up steep legal bills and expressing regret and contrition in court for their actions. Eric Tucker, Anchorage Daily News, 20 Mar. 2023 Sung in the voice of lovestruck, cuckolded killer, ‘Delilah’ careens between desire, repulsion, violence, contrition, love, and hate. Matthew Carey Salyer, Forbes, 17 Feb. 2023 Although the episode was eventually shelved, Fiennes recently expressed his contrition in an interview with The Guardian published over the weekend. Kyle Denis, Billboard, 13 June 2023 Some point out that Cook’s contrition conveniently coincided with his new role, while others argue that he should be allowed a second chance, as long as lessons have been learned. Mark Sutherland, Variety, 3 Apr. 2023 The publication of this letter expressing contrition, and the fact that Rwanda commuted his sentence, rather than pardoning him, allowed the Rwandan government to stand by their assertion of Rusesabagina’s guilt. Jennifer Hansler, CNN, 24 Mar. 2023 Without such measures, the vast majority of Syrians in exile say returning home is impossible: Any guarantee by Mr. Assad – regarded as a serial promise-breaker who has shown no contrition for the systematic destruction, torture, and killings under his command – cannot be trusted. Dominique Soguel, The Christian Science Monitor, 27 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'contrition.' 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 contricioun "disruption, rift or breach, sorrow for sins committed," borrowed from Anglo-French cuntriciun, contricion, borrowed from Latin contrītiōn-, contrītiō "dismay, grief, despondency" (Medieval Latin also "crushing sense of sin"), from contrī-, variant stem of conterere "to crush, wear out or down, exhaust mentally or physically" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at contrite

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near contrition

Cite this Entry

“Contrition.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​tri·​tion kən-ˈtrish-ən How to pronounce contrition (audio)
: the state of being contrite

More from Merriam-Webster on contrition

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