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[pen-i-ten-shuh l] /ˌpɛn ɪˈtɛn ʃəl/
of, pertaining to, proceeding from, or expressive of penitence or repentance.
a book or code of canons relating to penance, its imposition, etc.
Origin of penitential
1500-10; < Medieval Latin pēnitēntiālis, Late Latin paenitēntiālis. See penitent, -ial
Related forms
penitentially, adverb
unpenitential, adjective
unpenitentially, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for penitential
Historical Examples
  • He cannot even command the price of a penitential three-fingers of rye.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
  • I could tell his intonation of a penitential psalm among a thousand.

    Simon Dale

    Anthony Hope
  • In all the penitential discipline of the church also bond and free were on an equality.


    William Graham Sumner
  • It was a kind of penitential class for dunces during play‑time.

    The Martian George Du Maurier
  • I learnt from the monk that he was a Trappist, and that he was making a penitential tour.

    Mauprat George Sand
  • And these penitential exercises in detective work—what have they brought forth?

    The Readjustment Will Irwin
  • Consequently, the Senora had laid aside her penitential garments.

    Remember the Alamo Amelia E. Barr
  • Every day, every hour, may afford matter for penitential sorrow.

  • What penitential attitude did he assume before Mr. Pickwick?

    Fly Leaves C. S. Calverley
  • penitential days are coming for the German Empire and for the German people.

    Our Part in the Great War Arthur Gleason
British Dictionary definitions for penitential


of, showing, or constituting penance
(mainly RC Church) a book or compilation of instructions for confessors
a less common word for penitent (sense 2), penitent (sense 3)
Derived Forms
penitentially, adverb
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 penitential

c.1500, from Medieval Latin penitentialis, from Latin paenitentia "repentance" (see penitence).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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