verb (used without object), a·toned, a·ton·ing.
  1. 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.
  2. to make up, as for errors or deficiencies (usually followed by for): to atone for one's failings.
  3. Obsolete. to become reconciled; agree.
verb (used with object), a·toned, a·ton·ing.
  1. to make amends for; expiate: He atoned his sins.
  2. Obsolete. to bring into unity, harmony, concord, etc.

Origin of atone

First recorded in 1545–55; back formation from atonement
Related formsa·ton·a·ble, a·tone·a·ble, adjectivea·ton·er, nouna·ton·ing·ly, adverbun·a·toned, adjectiveun·a·ton·ing, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for atones

Contemporary Examples of atones

Historical Examples of atones

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for atones


  1. (intr foll by for) to make amends or reparation (for a crime, sin, etc)
  2. (tr) to expiateto atone a guilt with repentance
  3. obsolete to be in or bring into agreement
Derived Formsatonable or atoneable, adjectiveatoner, noun

Word Origin for atone

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

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