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  1. (in the Christian religion) an annual season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting 40 weekdays to Easter, observed by Roman Catholic, Anglican, and certain other churches.

Origin of Lent

before 1000; Middle English lente(n), Old English lencten, lengten spring, Lent, literally, lengthening (of daylight hours); cognate with Dutch lente, German Lenz spring; see Lenten
Related formspost-Lent, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lents

Historical Examples

  • A monk reckons his monastic life by the number of Lents he has observed.

    A Civil Servant in Burma

    Herbert Thirkel White

  • "No doubt you're right, Kass," Lents rumbled in a deep voice.

    The Metal Moon

    Everett C. Smith

  • "We will not tell anyone what you said, child," Lents rumbled comfortingly.

    The Metal Moon

    Everett C. Smith

  • "Flopping like a flapjack," Lents commented as he watched the shifting vista.

    The Metal Moon

    Everett C. Smith

  • Lents raised his broad placid face from the pad upon which he had been figuring a complicated equation.

    The Metal Moon

    Everett C. Smith

British Dictionary definitions for lents


  1. the past tense and past participle of lend


  1. Christianity the period of forty weekdays lasting from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, observed as a time of penance and fasting commemorating Jesus' fasting in the wilderness
  2. (modifier) falling within or associated with the season before EasterLent observance
  3. (plural) (at Cambridge University) Lent term boat races

Word Origin

Old English lencten, lengten spring, literally: lengthening (of hours of daylight)
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

Word Origin and History for lents



late 14c., short for Lenten (n.) "forty days before Easter" (early 12c.), from Old English lencten "springtime, spring," the season, also "the fast of Lent," from West Germanic *langa-tinaz "long-days" (cf. Old Saxon lentin, Middle Dutch lenten, Old High German lengizin manoth), from *lanngaz (root of Old English lang "long;" see long (adj.)) + *tina-, a root meaning "day" (cf. Gothic sin-teins "daily"), cognate with Old Church Slavonic dini, Lithuanian diena, Latin dies "day" (see diurnal).

the compound probably refers to the increasing daylight. Cf. similar form evolution in Dutch lente (Middle Dutch lentin), German Lenz (Old High German lengizin) "spring." Church sense of "period between Ash Wednesday and Easter" is peculiar to English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

lents in Culture


In Christianity, a time of fasting and repentance in the spring, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending several weeks later on Easter.


To “give something up for Lent” is to abandon a pleasurable habit as an act of devotion and self-discipline.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.