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[uh-tohn] /əˈtoʊn/
verb (used without object), atoned, atoning.
to make amends or reparation, as for an offense or a crime, or for an offender (usually followed by for):
to atone for one's sins.
to make up, as for errors or deficiencies (usually followed by for):
to atone for one's failings.
Obsolete. to become reconciled; agree.
verb (used with object), atoned, atoning.
to make amends for; expiate:
He atoned his sins.
Obsolete. to bring into unity, harmony, concord, etc.
Origin of atone
1545-55; back formation from atonement
Related forms
atonable, atoneable, adjective
atoner, noun
atoningly, adverb
unatoned, adjective
unatoning, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for atone
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Have you not spent a lifetime of regret to atone for a moment of folly?

    Cape of Storms Percival Pollard
  • Torquemada could not have done better; but Khalid, it is hoped, will yet atone for his crimes.

    The Book of Khalid Ameen Rihani
  • Did he think that a few halting words could atone for his cruelty, could dispel the evil he had wrought?

    The Peace of Roaring River George van Schaick
  • If he had erred, let him at least atone for his error with his blood!

    The Downfall Emile Zola
  • That it is a "holy" city, and that a pilgrimage to its shrine is supposed to atone for sin, are its great interests.

British Dictionary definitions for atone


(intransitive) foll by for. to make amends or reparation (for a crime, sin, etc)
(transitive) to expiate: to atone a guilt with repentance
(obsolete) to be in or bring into agreement
Derived Forms
atonable, atoneable, adjective
atoner, noun
Word Origin
C16: back formation from atonement
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
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Word Origin and History for atone

1550s, from adverbial phrase atonen (c.1300) "in accord," literally "at one," a contraction of at and one. It retains the older pronunciation of one. The phrase perhaps is modeled on Latin adunare "unite," from ad- "to, at" (see ad-) + unum "one." Related: Atoned; atoning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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