ve·​nial ˈvē-nē-əl How to pronounce venial (audio)
: of a kind that can be remitted : forgivable, pardonable
also : meriting no particular censure or notice : excusable
venial faults
venially adverb
venialness noun

Example Sentences

taking the restaurant's menu as a souvenir seems like a venial offense
Recent Examples on the Web But logging off—and returning to the sphere in which people are apt to forgive one another for venial affronts—is no longer an option. Becca Rothfeld, The New Yorker, 21 Mar. 2022 And that loyalty has been reciprocated with job security and forgiveness of venial sins. cleveland, 12 Dec. 2021 The list is long of international companies, and even celebrities, who’ve groveled in apology for sins as venial as recognizing Taiwan. Kevin T. Dugan, Fortune, 8 Sep. 2021 This is, of course, the day-to-day venial reality for attorneys who don’t prosecute serial killers, and Saul can always extrapolate small crimes into tall tales. Darren Franich,, 18 June 2020 Taibbi favors a cynical style evenly applied across the universe of real and perceived journalistic trespasses, challenging a reader to sort mortal from venial. Ann Marie Lipinski, Washington Post, 18 Oct. 2019 His presence was more difficult to justify than the venial offenses of Spygate or Deflategate., 22 Sep. 2019 How much damage must populism do before conservatives treat the worst excesses of its flagship as warranting as much attention as the most venial mainstream media sins? Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, 19 Sep. 2017 That said, your sin was venial at best, whereas your aunt’s behavior is churlish and wildly out of proportion. Mallory Ortberg, Slate Magazine, 16 May 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'venial.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French, borrowed from Late Latin veniālis, from Latin venia "favor, kindness, indulgence, pardon" (derivative of a verbal base *wen- "desire," whence also vener-, venus "sexual desire") + -ālis -al entry 1 — more at venus

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near venial

Cite this Entry

“Venial.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


ve·​nial ˈvē-nē-əl How to pronounce venial (audio)
: not being a serious offense : forgivable
a venial sin

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