re·​morse ri-ˈmȯrs How to pronounce remorse (audio)
: a gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs : self-reproach
obsolete : compassion

Did you know?

In Latin, mordere means "to bite;" thus, remorse is something that "gnaws" at you over and over. In criminal court, judges are always looking for signs that a convicted felon is suffering remorse for his crime; if not, the judge may well lengthen his sentence or deny him parole after serving part of it. Remorse is stronger than mere regret; real remorse is the kind of thing that may last a lifetime.

Choose the Right Synonym for remorse

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 remorse in a Sentence

I could forgive him for what he did if he showed some remorse. he felt a deep remorse for having neglected his family over the years
Recent Examples on the Web In a video posted Friday on Twitter and his Instagram Stories, Bryan talked about the events leading to his arrest and expressed remorse for the incident. Mary Colurso |, al, 8 Sep. 2023 But that factor also contributes to the queasy feeling in High & Low that the subject is less defined by humbled remorse than self-pitying martyrdom. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 2 Sep. 2023 Commentary: Angels lose 5 to waivers: Team saves chump change, likely regrets trading prospects The Cleveland Guardians claimed three Angels pitchers, and the Cincinnati Reds took outfielder Hunter Renfroe, leaving the Halos with seller’s remorse. Sarah Valenzuela, Los Angeles Times, 2 Sep. 2023 Taylor previously expressed remorse about the shooting. Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, 5 Sep. 2023 South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was premised upon remorse and transparency, is one such example. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, 3 Sep. 2023 Buyer’s remorse from Arizona to Washington could be a real thing in a few years. Ndaschel, oregonlive, 8 Aug. 2023 All the while, Bowers, 50, who had raged against Jewish people during the attack and has shown no remorse since, looked the other way and flipped through a stack of papers., 3 Aug. 2023 When things get heated, Laurel slaps Belly and instantly shows remorse. Erica Gonzales, ELLE, 13 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'remorse.' 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, from Anglo-French remors, from Medieval Latin remorsus, from Late Latin, act of biting again, from Latin remordēre to bite again, from re- + mordēre to bite — more at mordant

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of remorse was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near remorse

Cite this Entry

“Remorse.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


re·​morse ri-ˈmȯ(ə)rs How to pronounce remorse (audio)
: a deep regret coming from a sense of guilt for past wrongs : self-reproach

Middle English remorse "a deep regret for having done wrong," from early French remors (same meaning), from Latin remorsus, noun derivative of remordēre "to bite again," from mordēre "to bite" — related to morsel

Word Origin
The Latin verb remordēre literally meant "to bite again." The Romans, however, usually used it with the meaning "to torment," because being tormented was like getting bitten again and again. A noun derivative of this verb is remorsus, which in early French was used to form the noun remors. This noun was used to refer to the deep regret that torments one for having done something wrong. In the 15th century, this French word was taken into English as remorse with the same meaning.

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