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90s Slang You Should Know


[pen-uh ns] /ˈpɛn əns/
a punishment undergone in token of penitence for sin.
a penitential discipline imposed by church authority.
a sacrament, as in the Roman Catholic Church, consisting in a confession of sin, made with sorrow and with the intention of amendment, followed by the forgiveness of the sin.
Origin of penance
1250-1300; Middle English penaunce < Anglo-French; Old French peneance < Latin paenitentia penitence
Related forms
penanceless, adjective
Can be confused
penance, pennants. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for penance
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When he had the penance finished the old friar came and said, "It's time for you to be going home."

  • If either broke the promise, he or she was liable to church censure and penance.

    Folkways William Graham Sumner
  • Here he at once adopted that spirit of fasting and penance which knew no moderation and with him became fanaticism.

    Glories of Spain Charles W. Wood
  • "You should pray, and do penance for your sins," was my reply.

    Mizora: A Prophecy Mary E. Bradley
  • I am resolved, therefore, that the true site of Dr. Johnson's penance was in the middle of the market-place.

    Our Old Home Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • He went back to it now, page by page; it seemed in some sort of penance that he must give.

    The Rhodesian Gertrude Page
British Dictionary definitions for penance


voluntary self-punishment to atone for a sin, crime, etc
a feeling of regret for one's wrongdoings
  1. a punishment usually consisting of prayer, fasting, etc, undertaken voluntarily as an expression of penitence for sin
  2. a punishment of this kind imposed by church authority as a condition of absolution
(transitive) (of ecclesiastical authorities) to impose a penance upon (a sinner)
Word Origin
C13: via Old French from Latin paenitentia repentance; related to Latin poena penalty
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 penance

late 13c., "religious discipline or self-mortification as a token of repentance and as atonement for some sin," from Anglo-French penaunce, Old French peneance (12c.), from Latin pænitentia (see penitence). Transferred sense is recorded from c.1300.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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penance in Culture

penance definition

Acts done to make up for sin. (See confession and indulgence.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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