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 formspen·i·tent·ly, adverbnon·pen·i·tent, adjective, nounun·pen·i·tent, adjectiveun·pen·i·tent·ly, adverb

Synonyms for penitent

Antonyms for penitent Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for penitent

Contemporary Examples of penitent

  • In one scene, a penitent missus in a shapeless tube dress scratches her head and admits to having crashed the car.

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    Too Sexy for Brazil

    Mac Margolis

    October 6, 2011

  • Still, that might not do it: not every believer, or even all members of the penitent, will be taken.

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    Your Guide to the End of the World

    David A. Graham

    May 20, 2011

  • He would later say about his subway pictures that they were made in the “hands of a penitent spy and an apologetic voyeur.”

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    Furtive Photography

    Philip Gefter

    May 27, 2010

  • His admonition last week to the Irish church repeatedly emphasised that heaven still awaits the penitent pedophile priest.

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    Prosecute the Pope

    Geoffrey Robertson

    April 1, 2010

  • I was glad to learn that Mary Magdalene's penitent side was not the main attraction here.

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    Mary Magdalene and Me

    Tracy Quan

    November 10, 2009

Historical Examples of penitent

British Dictionary definitions for penitent



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 Churcha person who confesses his sins to a priest and submits to a penance imposed by him
Derived Formspenitence, nounpenitently, adverb

Word Origin for penitent

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

Word Origin and History for penitent

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