pen·​i·​tent | \ ˈpe-nə-tənt How to pronounce penitent (audio) \

Definition of penitent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: feeling or expressing humble or regretful pain or sorrow for sins or offenses : repentant



Definition of penitent (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a person who repents of sin
2 : a person under church censure but admitted to penance or reconciliation especially under the direction of a confessor

Other Words from penitent


penitently adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for penitent

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of penitent in a Sentence

Adjective a penitent gossip who had come to ask for forgiveness
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective However, lawmakers returned six years later to reinstate the clergy-penitent privilege. Arizona Republic, 21 Apr. 2020 Even if absolution is denied, though, the exchange between penitent and confessor is to remain confidential. San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 Aug. 2019 As with McBride’s voice-over, which Pitt delivers in intimate tones — like a lover or penitent whispering confidences in your ear — the helmet alternately reveals and obscures the character, putting the narrative dynamic into visual terms. New York Times, 20 Sep. 2019 This rule applies, for example, to conversations between a lawyer and a client, between a priest and a penitent, and between a husband and wife. NBC News, 19 Nov. 2019 Stacked up one by one, the whole thing feels unrelenting, like a a permanent, penitent chorus, sung in harmony, museum to museum. ., 11 Oct. 2019 The Rockets organization was similarly penitent, and rumors began to circulate that Morey, one of the league’s most talented executives, could lose his job. Nathaniel Friedman, The New Republic, 11 Oct. 2019 Ito was penitent in a meeting this week meant to air grievances and begin to heal disagreements, according to a New York Times report. Washington Post, 6 Sep. 2019 Some former Shining Path fighters joined: los arrepentidos, the penitent ones. Rachel Nolan, Harper's magazine, 24 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The administrator’s caravan charted a penitent itinerary along the Gulf Coast, calling on communities of color that the EPA has historically failed to protect. Ava Kofman, ProPublica, 24 Nov. 2021 The last bit is driven home when, like a penitent in a confessional, Hero tells Roxanne her dark secret, effectively surrendering herself for the low, low price of some matriarchal absolution. Devon Maloney, Vulture, 4 Oct. 2021 That something similar holds for him suggests the one true-faith note of this novel: that there is no difference between judge and penitent. David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2021 Infinity War for the dramatic reveal of the penitent Red Skull, overseeing the site of the Soul Stone on the planet Vormir. Nola Pfau, Vulture, 16 June 2021 In other words, if Trump is penitent, Facebook could still give him back his passwords. Philip Elliott, Time, 5 May 2021 The costumer-confessor and actress-penitent were in a state of hope. New York Times, 4 May 2021 As the exhibition unfolds, artists-penitent, shrinking from the perils of originality, dominate in Russia. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 21 Dec. 2020 Benenson, who was also Hillary Clinton’s pollster, on a campaign that failed to measure the intensity of the anti-establishment wave, paused for a minute, considering the image of Trump giving a penitent speech. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, 11 Sep. 2020

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


14th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for penitent


Middle English, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French penitent, from Latin paenitent-, paenitens, from present participle of paenitēre to cause regret, feel regret, perhaps from paene almost

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The first known use of penitent was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Penitent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for penitent



English Language Learners Definition of penitent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: feeling or showing sorrow and regret because you have done something wrong



English Language Learners Definition of penitent (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who is sorry for doing something wrong and asks for forgiveness : a penitent person


pen·​i·​tent | \ ˈpe-nə-tənt How to pronounce penitent (audio) \

Kids Definition of penitent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: feeling or showing sadness for a person's own sins or faults



Kids Definition of penitent (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who feels or shows sorrow for sins or faults

More from Merriam-Webster on penitent

Nglish: Translation of penitent for Spanish Speakers


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