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From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin paenitens, poenitens (penitent), present participle of Latin paenitere, poenitere (to cause to repent, intrans. repent, regret).



penitent (comparative more penitent, superlative most penitent)

  1. Feeling pain or sorrow on account of sins or offenses; repentant; contrite; sincerely affected by a sense of guilt, and resolved on amendment of life.
    • 1838, Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, B. Blake, p.730,
      If thou be penitent and grieved, or desirous to be so, these heinous sins shall not be laid to thy charge.
    • Milton
      Be penitent, and for thy fault contrite.
  2. Doing penance.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)




penitent (plural penitents)

  1. One who repents of sin; one sorrowful on account of his or her transgressions.
  2. One under church censure, but admitted to penance; one undergoing penance.
    • 1837, William Russell, The History of Modern Europe: with an Account of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Longman, Rees, & Co., page 20,
      Wamba, who defeated the Saracens in an attempt upon Spain, was deprived of the crown, because he had been clothed in the habit of a penitent, while labouring under the influence of poison, administered by the ambitious Erviga!
  3. One under the direction of a confessor.



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