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sackcloth and ashes

Mourning or penitence, as in What I did to Julie's child was terrible, and I've been in sackcloth and ashes ever since. This term refers to the ancient Hebrew custom of indicating humility before God by wearing a coarse cloth, normally used to make sacks, and dusting oneself with ashes. In English it appeared in William Tyndale's 1526 biblical translations (Matthew 11:21), “They [the cities Tyre and Sidon] had repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Related Words for sackcloth and ashes

retribution, penitence, repentance, contrition, remorse, atonement, forgiveness, absolution, compunction, mortification, sorrow, confession, compensation, rue, penalty, suffering, purgation, attrition, ruth, punishment