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[uh-tohn] /əˈtoʊn/
verb (used without object), atoned, atoning.
to make amends or reparation, as for an offense or a crime, or for an offender (usually followed by for):
to atone for one's sins.
to make up, as for errors or deficiencies (usually followed by for):
to atone for one's failings.
Obsolete. to become reconciled; agree.
verb (used with object), atoned, atoning.
to make amends for; expiate:
He atoned his sins.
Obsolete. to bring into unity, harmony, concord, etc.
Origin of atone
First recorded in 1545-55; back formation from atonement
Related forms
atonable, atoneable, adjective
atoner, noun
atoningly, adverb
unatoned, adjective
unatoning, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for atones
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Its variety and symmetry.painters, and see if it atones for the deficiencies of the stems.

  • The service you have done in discovering this atones for your fault.

    The Vintage Edward Frederic Benson
  • The weaker party, if it be wise, atones for its weakness by entrenchments.

    The Great Boer War Arthur Conan Doyle
  • But Fielding more than atones for all the rest by the creation of Parson Adams.

    The Gentle Reader Samuel McChord Crothers
  • If he enjoys a kind farewell overnight, he atones for it by the coldest greeting in the morning.

  • A malefactor who atones for making your writing nonsense by permitting the compositor to make it unintelligible.

    The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce
  • The good American is, as a rule, pretty hard upon roguery, but he atones for his austerity by an amiable toleration of rogues.

  • At night we found our bag of atones still held us very well, and we slept tranquilly.

    The Malay Archipelago Alfred Russell Wallace
  • Nemours renews his vows and entreaties; the Princess refuses his hand, and atones for her error in cloistered seclusion.

British Dictionary definitions for atones


(intransitive) foll by for. to make amends or reparation (for a crime, sin, etc)
(transitive) to expiate: to atone a guilt with repentance
(obsolete) to be in or bring into agreement
Derived Forms
atonable, atoneable, adjective
atoner, noun
Word Origin
C16: back formation from atonement
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for atones



1550s, from adverbial phrase atonen (c.1300) "in accord," literally "at one," a contraction of at and one. It retains the older pronunciation of one. The phrase perhaps is modeled on Latin adunare "unite," from ad- "to, at" (see ad-) + unum "one." Related: Atoned; atoning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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