pen·​i·​tence | \ ˈpe-nə-tən(t)s How to pronounce penitence (audio) \

Definition of penitence

: the quality or state of being penitent : sorrow for sins or faults Forgiveness requires penitence.

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Choose the Right Synonym for penitence

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 penitence in a Sentence

the sincerity of the player's penitence is questionable—he began to express remorse only after the suspension was handed down
Recent Examples on the Web Nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 2020 Oscars, this Polish drama is driven by a young criminal, who when released from prison is mistaken for a priest and preaches his own layman’s views of devotion and penitence. Will Coviello,, "Silver linings from a tough year for movie lovers," 28 Dec. 2020 Proponents of this system believed that solitude would lead to penitence, which would ultimately result in rehabilitation. Gulnaz Khan, National Geographic, "These are the most haunted places in the United States," 31 Oct. 2020 My penitence froze me in place, scared to make a move for fear of ruining something else. Lisa Richardson, Longreads, "How to Tell Your Husband You’re a Witch," 8 Apr. 2020 McGuckin whispers the reason to you: in 325 CE, a council of the universal Church held at Nicaea (now Iznik, Turkey) forbade kneeling on Sundays, because kneeling is a gesture of penitence, and Sunday is the time to rejoice in glory. Diarmaid Macculloch, The New York Review of Books, "The Vitality of Orthodoxy," 17 June 2020 Lavender for the remembrance and penitence of Lent, in addition to plastic eggs. Kaitlyn Yarborough, Southern Living, "Why the True Colors of Easter for a Southern Family Aren't Just Pastel," 3 Apr. 2020 Amazing Grace: Lent, the Christian season of penitence and fasting in preparation for the Paschal feast, is upon us. Catherine Bigelow,, "Grace Cathedral in SF lets the good times roll to the tune of 600K; Barbara Eden honored," 3 Mar. 2020 Thomas Bell Atlanta Christians admit their shortcomings, practice penitence and repent. WSJ, "Trump and the Support of Evangelical Voters," 15 Jan. 2020 Guilt, shame and penitence for eternity seems fair. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Hickenlooper should hold aim for Cabinet post; What about us, Chase Bank?; A price too high to pay?; Epstein’s fate; Dangerous decision on scooters (8/15/19)," 15 Aug. 2019

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

13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for penitence

Middle English, from Anglo-French penitance, from Medieval Latin poenitentia, alteration of Latin paenitentia regret, from paenitent-, paenitens, present participle

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Time Traveler for penitence

Time Traveler

The first known use of penitence was in the 13th century

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Statistics for penitence

Last Updated

6 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Penitence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for penitence



English Language Learners Definition of penitence

formal : a feeling of deep sadness because you have done something wrong


pen·​i·​tence | \ ˈpe-nə-təns How to pronounce penitence (audio) \

Kids Definition of penitence

: deep sadness that a person feels for his or her sins or faults

More from Merriam-Webster on penitence

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for penitence

Nglish: Translation of penitence for Spanish Speakers

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