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.

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 After putting in the hard work of patience and penitence, the month is finished off with optimism. Manal Aman, Woman's Day, 18 Apr. 2022 Followers — including Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians and Lutherans — put ashes on their foreheads as an outward symbol of their penitence. The Salt Lake Tribune, 3 Mar. 2022 There are, no doubt, references to art historical tropes, perhaps to images that remind of us of the brevity of life, or even penitence. Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2021 The church has tended to emphasize spiritual penitence instead of penitentiaries. Washington Post, 15 Oct. 2021 Ashes and dust—Catholic symbols of penitence and mortality—were familiar to the author from the faith that restored meaning to his life. Brenda Cronin, WSJ, 8 Oct. 2021 The trial broke new ground for the church, where abuse accusations have generally been dealt with behind closed doors or in canonical trials, where offenders can be defrocked or ordered to a life of prayer and penitence. Washington Post, 6 Oct. 2021 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, 2 July 2020 Another popular ritual is to walk to a river or stream and recite special prayers of penitence. CNN, 26 Aug. 2021 See More

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.

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

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Cite this Entry

“Penitence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for penitence


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

Nglish: Translation of penitence for Spanish Speakers


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