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  1. the act or practice of indulging; gratification of desire.
  2. the state of being indulgent.
  3. indulgent allowance or tolerance.
  4. a catering to someone's mood or whim; humoring: The sick man demanded indulgence as his due.
  5. something indulged in: Her favorite indulgence was candy.
  6. Roman Catholic Church. a partial remission of the temporal punishment, especially purgatorial atonement, that is still due for a sin or sins after absolution.Compare plenary indulgence.
  7. English and Scottish History. (in the reigns of Charles II and James II) a grant by the king to Protestant dissenters and Roman Catholics freeing them from certain penalties imposed, by legislation, because of their religion.
  8. Commerce. an extension, through favor, of time for payment or performance.
verb (used with object), in·dul·genced, in·dul·genc·ing.
  1. Roman Catholic Church. to provide with an indulgence: an indulgenced pilgrimage to Rome.

Origin of indulgence

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English word from Latin word indulgentia. See indulge, -ence
Related formsnon·in·dul·gence, nounpre·in·dul·gence, nounre·in·dul·gence, nounsu·per·in·dul·gence, noun

Synonyms for indulgence

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for indulgence


  1. the act of indulging or state of being indulgent
  2. a pleasure, habit, etc, indulged in; extravagancefur coats are an indulgence
  3. liberal or tolerant treatment
  4. something granted as a favour or privilege
  5. RC Church a remission of the temporal punishment for sin after its guilt has been forgiven
  6. commerce an extension of time granted as a favour for payment of a debt or as fulfilment of some other obligation
  7. Also called: Declaration of Indulgence a royal grant during the reigns of Charles II and James II of England giving Nonconformists and Roman Catholics a measure of religious freedom
verb (tr)
  1. RC Church to designate as providing indulgenceindulgenced prayers
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 indulgence

mid-14c., "freeing from temporal punishment for sin," from Old French indulgence or directly from Latin indulgentia "complaisance, fondness, remission," from indulgentem (nominative indulgens) "indulgent, kind, tender, fond," present participle of indulgere "be kind, yield," of unknown origin; perhaps from in- "in" + derivative of PIE root *dlegh- "to engage oneself."

Sense of "gratification of another's desire or humor" is attested from late 14c. That of "yielding to one's inclinations" (technically self-indulgence) is from 1640s. In British history, Indulgence also refers to grants of certain liberties to Nonconformists under Charles II and James II, as special favors rather than legal rights; specifically the Declarations of Indulgence of 1672, 1687, and 1688 in England and 1669, 1672, and 1687 in Scotland.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

indulgence in Culture


In the Roman Catholic Church, a declaration by church authorities that those who say certain prayers or do good deeds will have some or all of their punishment in purgatory remitted.


In the Middle Ages, indulgences were frequently sold, and the teaching on indulgences was often distorted. The attack by Martin Luther on the sale of indulgences began the Reformation.
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.