Day of Atonement

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noun Judaism.
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Origin of Day of Atonement

First recorded in 1810–20
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is the Day of Atonement?

The Day of Atonement is Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday devoted to atoning for sins. It’s considered the holiest day of the year in Judaism.

Observation of the day is marked by fasting and prayers of repentance during a daylong service in the synagogue.

Yom Kippur is observed each year on the 10th day of Tishri, the first month of the Jewish calendar. Because the Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar, the specific date on which Yom Kippur falls changes each year.

It is the culmination of a 10-day period of penitence that starts with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This period is referred to as the High Holidays or the Days of Awe.

Where does Day of Atonement come from?

Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement because that’s what it literally means. Its name comes from the Hebrew words yōm, meaning “day,” and kippūr, meaning “atonement.”

According to Jewish tradition, the period that begins with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur is when God renders judgment, so many Jews use the time to pray and make amends (atone) for the wrongs they have committed.

Yom Kippur is believed to originate with the story of God presenting Moses with the Ten Commandments, the first of which prohibits worshiping other gods. When Moses returned with the stone tablets that contained the commandments, he found the Israelites worshipping an idol in the form of a golden calf. Moses smashed the tablets in anger, but the Israelites atoned, and God forgave them and provided new tablets.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing the Day of Atonement?

How is Day of Atonement discussed in real life?

Yom Kippur is referred to as the Day of Atonement and is considered the most important and holiest day of the year in Judaism. Many Jews spend the day in the synagogue reciting prayers of repentance.


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True or False?

Yom Kippur literally translates as “Day of Atonement.”

How to use Day of Atonement in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Day of Atonement

Day of Atonement

another name for Yom Kippur
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

Cultural definitions for Day of Atonement

Day of Atonement

An annual day of fasting and prayer among the Israelites, still observed by their descendants, the present-day Jews (see also Jews). It occurs in autumn, and its observance is one of the requirements of the Mosaic law. Jews call this day Yom Kippur.

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.