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See also: pénitent


Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English, from Old French, from Latin paenitēns, poenitēns (penitent), present participle of paeniteō, poeniteō (I cause to repent; I regret, repent).


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɛnɪtənt/
  • (file)


penitent (comparative more penitent, superlative most penitent)

  1. Feeling pain or sorrow on account of one's sins or offenses; repentant; contrite; feeling sincere guilt.
    • 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.
    • (Can we date this quote by Milton?)
      Be penitent, and for thy fault contrite.
  2. Doing penance.




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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