ˈshrīv How to pronounce shrive (audio)
 especially Southern  ˈsrīv
shrived or shrove ˈshrōv How to pronounce shrive (audio)
; shriven ˈshri-vən How to pronounce shrive (audio)
or shrived; shriving

transitive verb

: to administer the sacrament of reconciliation to
: to free from guilt

intransitive verb

archaic : to confess one's sins especially to a priest

Did you know?

We wouldn't want to give the history of shrive short shrift, so here's the whole story. It began when the Latin verb scribere (meaning "to write") found its way onto the tongues of certain Germanic peoples who brought it to Britain in the early Middle Ages. Because it was often used for laying down directions or rules in writing, Old English speakers used their form of the term, scrīfan, to mean "to prescribe or impose." The Church adopted scrīfan to refer to the act of assigning penance to sinners and, later, to hearing confession and administering absolution. Today shrift, the noun form of shrive, makes up half of "short shrift," a phrase meaning "little or no attention or consideration." Originally, "short shrift" was the barely adequate time for confession before an execution.

Examples of shrive in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Shrove Tuesday derives from the Anglo-Saxon Christian practice of going to confession and being shriven, or absolved of sins before the 40-day fast leading up to Easter. Skyler Caruso, Peoplemag, 21 Feb. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'shrive.' 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 Old English scrīfan to shrive, prescribe (akin to Old High German scrīban to write), from Latin scribere to write — more at scribe

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of shrive was before the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near shrive

Cite this Entry

“Shrive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


shrived or shrove ˈshrōv How to pronounce shrive (audio) ; shriven ˈshriv-ən How to pronounce shrive (audio) or shrived; shriving
: to hear the confession of and administer the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance to : pardon
archaic : to confess one's sins especially to a priest

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