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 There’s just a little ramp for a little bit of contrition, some forgiveness, and the beginnings of rebuilding it all. Precious Fondren, Los Angeles Times, 1 July 2024 Sunak dropped his attempts at contrition and became tetchy and confrontational instead. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, 29 June 2024 Image But Judge Chutkan was swayed by Mr. Irizarry’s note of contrition. Richard Fausset, New York Times, 10 June 2024 The parole board looks for signs of contrition and rehabilitation. Beth Warren, The Courier-Journal, 30 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for contrition 

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 13 Jul. 2024.

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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