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[pen-i-tuh nt] /ˈpɛn ɪ tənt/
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 forms
penitently, adverb
nonpenitent, adjective, noun
unpenitent, adjective
unpenitently, adverb
1. remorseful, rueful, sorrowful.
1. unrepentant, impenitent. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for penitent
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But she smiled again as she gathered the penitent girl in her arms, and kissed her.

    Carmen Ariza Charles Francis Stocking
  • But if she began to cry, then Harry had the worst of it, and was as penitent as any good child.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • "By a Captain, in a house of ill-fame," said the priest, interrupting the penitent.

  • The praying of this petition presupposes a penitent state of heart.

  • He was so softened, so penitent and earnest, that even the severe Mrs. Royden was inclined to forgive him.

    Father Brighthopes John Townsend Trowbridge
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 Church) a person who confesses his sins to a priest and submits to a penance imposed by him
Derived Forms
penitence, noun
penitently, 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
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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
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