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[pen-i-ten-shuh l]
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  1. of, pertaining to, proceeding from, or expressive of penitence or repentance.
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  1. a penitent.
  2. a book or code of canons relating to penance, its imposition, etc.
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Origin of penitential

1500–10; < Medieval Latin pēnitēntiālis, Late Latin paenitēntiālis. See penitent, -ial
Related formspen·i·ten·tial·ly, adverbun·pen·i·ten·tial, adjectiveun·pen·i·ten·tial·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for penitential

Historical Examples

  • He cannot even command the price of a penitential three-fingers of rye.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • I could tell his intonation of a penitential psalm among a thousand.

    Simon Dale

    Anthony Hope

  • In all the penitential discipline of the church also bond and free were on an equality.


    William Graham Sumner

  • It was a kind of penitential class for dunces during play‑time.

    The Martian

    George Du Maurier

  • I learnt from the monk that he was a Trappist, and that he was making a penitential tour.


    George Sand

British Dictionary definitions for penitential


  1. of, showing, or constituting penance
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  1. mainly RC Church a book or compilation of instructions for confessors
  2. a less common word for penitent (def. 2), penitent (def. 3)
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Derived Formspenitentially, adverb
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 penitential


c.1500, from Medieval Latin penitentialis, from Latin paenitentia "repentance" (see penitence).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper