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[pen-i-tuh nt] /ˈpɛn ɪ tənt/
feeling or expressing sorrow for sin or wrongdoing and disposed to atonement and amendment; repentant; contrite.
a penitent person.
Roman Catholic Church. a person who confesses sin and submits to a penance.
Origin of penitent
1325-75; Middle English < Medieval Latin pēnitent-, Latin paenitent- (stem of paenitēns), present participle of paenitēre to regret; replacing Middle English penaunt < Anglo-French; see penance
Related forms
penitently, adverb
nonpenitent, adjective, noun
unpenitent, adjective
unpenitently, adverb
1. remorseful, rueful, sorrowful.
1. unrepentant, impenitent. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for penitently
Historical Examples
  • "Sorry," Sally said penitently, and they walked in silence until they reached the house.


    Dorothy Whitehill
  • "Truly, I never thought of such a thing," Louise said penitently.

    In Blue Creek Caon Anna Chapin Ray
  • "I suppose I ought to be looking wretched," I said penitently.

  • Forgive me, Peggy, he said penitently; I appreciate your coming more than I can say.

    The Rough Road

    William John Locke
  • Ive been a brute again, cried Nancy, penitently, dashing after her mother.

  • Who would refuse the kindness for which she begged so penitently?

    Mary Barton

    Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • Suddenly he became quiet and bent toward her anxiously, penitently.

  • “It may be that I have been somewhat ungracious,” said Francis penitently.

    In Doublet and Hose Lucy Foster Madison
  • “I am afraid I left her too much to do,” she said, penitently.

    Not Like Other Girls Rosa N. Carey
  • "I ain't got no mo' manners than a chuckawaller," she said penitently.

    Rimrock Trail J. Allan Dunn
British Dictionary definitions for penitently


feeling regret for one's sins; repentant
a person who is penitent
  1. a person who repents his sins and seeks forgiveness for them
  2. (RC Church) a person who confesses his sins to a priest and submits to a penance imposed by him
Derived Forms
penitence, noun
penitently, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Church Latin paenitēns regretting, from paenitēre to repent, of obscure origin
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 penitently



mid-14c., from Old French pénitent (14c.) and directly from Latin paenitentem (see penitence). As a noun, late 14c., from the adjective.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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