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 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 devotions are an act of penitence to raise awareness of Jesus’s self-sacrifice and love, says Morrill. Arricca Elin Sansone, Country Living, "What Is Holy Saturday, the Day Before Easter, and Why Do We Celebrate It?," 1 Mar. 2019 In 2011, Karadima was found guilty by a church tribunal and sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in prayer and penitence. Kristin E. Holmes,, "The Philly man who survived sexual abuse by a priest, and the pope who asked for his forgiveness," 25 May 2018 In 2011, a Vatican tribunal convicted Karadima and sentenced him to a life of prayer and penitence. Elisabetta Povoledo,, "Pope to host abuse victims individually, seek forgiveness," 26 Apr. 2018 At the time, commentators suggested that the color was an acknowledgement of the shade’s ties to the suffrage movement or its significance in Methodist tradition as a sign of royalty and penitence, since Clinton is Methodist. Claire Zillman, Fortune, "Why You Should Wear Purple on International Women's Day," 7 Mar. 2018 Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a period of 40 days, plus Sundays, leading up to Easter, characterized by an attitude of penitence. Greg Garrison,, "Candy and ashes: Ash Wednesday is also Valentine's Day," 14 Feb. 2018 The civic leaders believed that, at their cores, all men had good hearts and that they would be redeemed through penitence, hence the name of the world’s first penitentiary. Jay Jones,, "From Shawshank to Al Capone's cell, historic prisons captivate tourists," 25 Sep. 2017 But its decision to use this mistreatment to build a general indictment of American society and demand a confession of white sins and public penitence only played into the hands of the Republican right. Mark Lilla, WSJ, "The Liberal Crackup," 11 Aug. 2017

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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Cite this Entry

“Penitence.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 11 December 2019.

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More Definitions for penitence


How to pronounce penitence (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on penitence

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for penitence

Spanish Central: Translation of penitence

Nglish: Translation of penitence for Spanish Speakers

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heavy with or as if with moisture

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