[sak-klawth, -kloth]
  1. in sackcloth and ashes, in a state of repentance or sorrow; contrite: She would be in sackcloth and ashes for days over every trifling error she made.

Origin of sackcloth

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at sack1, cloth
Related formssack·clothed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for in sack cloth and ashes


  1. coarse cloth such as sacking
  2. garments made of such cloth, worn formerly to indicate mourning or penitence
  3. sackcloth and ashes a public display of extreme grief, remorse, or repentance
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 in sack cloth and ashes



penitential or grieving garb, late 13c., literally "cloth of which sacks are made," from sack (n.1) + cloth. In the Biblical sense it was of goats' or camels' hair, the coarsest possible clothing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper