• synonyms


[pen-i-tuh nt]
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  1. feeling or expressing sorrow for sin or wrongdoing and disposed to atonement and amendment; repentant; contrite.
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  1. a penitent person.
  2. Roman Catholic Church. a person who confesses sin and submits to a penance.
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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


See more synonyms for penitent on Thesaurus.com
1. remorseful, rueful, sorrowful.


1. unrepentant, impenitent.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for penitently

Historical Examples

  • "Sorry," Sally said penitently, and they walked in silence until they reached the house.


    Dorothy Whitehill

  • "Truly, I never thought of such a thing," Louise said penitently.

    In Blue Creek Caon

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • "I suppose I ought to be looking wretched," I said penitently.

  • Forgive me, Peggy, he said penitently; I appreciate your coming more than I can say.

    The Rough Road

    William John Locke

  • Ive been a brute again, cried Nancy, penitently, dashing after her mother.

British Dictionary definitions for penitently


  1. feeling regret for one's sins; repentant
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  1. a person who is penitent
  2. Christianity
    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
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Derived Formspenitence, nounpenitently, adverb

Word Origin

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 penitently



mid-14c., from Old French pénitent (14c.) and directly from Latin paenitentem (see penitence). As a noun, late 14c., from the adjective.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper