Definition of confessional in English:



  • 1An enclosed stall in a church divided by a screen or curtain in which a priest sits to hear confessions.

    ‘the secrets of the confessional’
    • ‘The answer is one that feminists do not like to hear - namely, that the priest is an icon of Christ and acts in persona Christi at the altar and in the confessional.’
    • ‘And it is true that a priest has a rebuttable presumption against revealing in court what he has heard in the confessional.’
    • ‘Consequently, the screenplay has him paying frequent visits to a confessional.’
    • ‘Canada, said the news agency, was advancing a plan that would deny clergy the right to refuse testimony on anything they heard in the confessional.’
    • ‘Old-fashioned confessionals having been tossed out long ago, the rule is that ‘reconciliation rooms’ must have a clear window with somebody posted outside to keep an eye on things.’
    • ‘They're right beside churches with drive-through confessionals.’
    • ‘I'm going to have to spend a year in the confessional at church after all this is over.’
    • ‘Such people appear to have no conception of why the Church has confessionals or the Seal.’
    • ‘This latter, partly the result of the rise of therapy and the women's movement, naturally means that fewer people feel the pressure to tell which swelled nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century confessionals.’
    • ‘‘I came here for meaning,’ Gavin says to the priest in the confessional.’
    • ‘The priest will then assign a ‘penance’, which usually consists of a few prayers to say in the church after leaving the confessional.’
    • ‘From the altar area worshipers may access the ambulatory as it extends along the north side of the structure, where the confessionals are located.’
    • ‘Repenting sinners may find relief in an item being auctioned on the Internet by a Vienna church - a cherry-wood confessional.’
    • ‘In some dioceses, priests were expected to preach on the subject at least once a year, and it was not unusual for priests to raise the issue of contraception in the confessional.’
    • ‘The play then shifts to a church confessional where the geek is talking about the sniffing incident, about how it was a sinful display but arousing nonetheless.’
    • ‘Not a very large structure, the church was more of a chapel - bearing only five rows of pews, a small confessional, and an altar below a crucifix.’
    • ‘His film springs from a US culture steeped in acts of catharsis, where the therapist's couch has usurped the church confessional, and in its turn it has been eclipsed by the public exorcisms of the chat show.’
    • ‘After a brief opening prayer, parents line up with their children, presenting them to one of the waiting priests, seated not inside confessionals but on chairs scattered throughout the church.’
    • ‘And there were a good many other sequences planned for the picture which are not there, including her visit to a confessional in the Catholic church - without words, nothing was ever said.’
    • ‘Among American Catholics, the collapse of church discipline is symbolized by empty confessionals and more than $1 billion in settlements for clergy sexual abuses.’
  • 2An acknowledgement that one has done something shameful or embarrassing; a confession.

    ‘tabloid confessionals’
    • ‘The subject matter is still that of broken relationships but, whereas before the sense was of an unremitting resignation, now a lighter note leavens the confessionals.’
    • ‘It's a little disconcerting hearing the wide-eyed troubadour so distraught, but if it's any consolation, the emotional intensity of his folksy confessionals and heartfelt power-pop nuggets have been jacked up considerably.’
    • ‘What he rejected was the part designed for him by American commerce, a chance to be part of the traffic in ethnic confessionals, a part in the drama of a show trial of the sixties; he did not reject the forms of fiction themselves.’
    • ‘Yes, there is the standard tawdry bedroom balderdash that sells most tell-all cinematic confessionals.’
    • ‘‘I want to hear a love confessional,’ he said before realizing he was saying it.’
    • ‘In this time of tell-all public confessionals, I'm coming clean about my own coming-of-age, as it were.’
    • ‘If I wanted to hear confessionals about someone's sad youth, I'd go read some freshman poetry, or read any of the innumerable sob story memoirs that populate bookshelves and which we all pretty much agreed suck, I think.’
    • ‘It is largely due to her polished prose that the books rise above the level of confessionals.’
    • ‘In these days of tabloid confessionals and celebrity magazines, the sound of rock stars complaining about their lot has become a familiar one.’
    • ‘But I would suspect that this is one of those first person confessionals secretly disguised as a generalization-laden argument.’
    • ‘While such toe-curling confessionals may grate with some, they nonetheless fill its forty-five minutes with a world-weary warmth and idealism to match the boundary-breaking beats.’
    • ‘Hearing these confessionals was a thrill akin to skimming Lady Macbeth's diary or getting drunk with Machiavelli.’
    • ‘The books, like their women's-mag forerunners, are a string of outrageous confessionals from women in the grips of dating crises.’
    • ‘My stateside imagination ran more cheaply toward TV reality programs and talk-show confessionals.’
    • ‘On-camera confessionals narrate already obvious conflicts with either eye-rolling sarcasm or lip-quivering sincerity.’
    • ‘This sophomore effort features 10 romantic confessionals composed mostly on acoustic guitar and piano.’
    • ‘This is her most personal record, both in that she's had more to do with the music than ever before, and also that it continues with her apparent desire to write songs as confessionals.’
    • ‘He stopped embracing jealousy not wanting to hear a maudlin confessional in the hallway outside the lavatories.’
    • ‘It seals its fate with private camera confessionals, team challenges, and the mandatory hot tub (why must there always be a hot tub?).’
    • ‘His lyrics read like tabloid confessionals, offering glimpses into a celebrity's life.’


  • 1(of speech or writing) in which a person reveals private thoughts or admits to past incidents, especially ones about which they feel ashamed or embarrassed.

    ‘the autobiography is remarkably confessional’
    ‘his confessional outpourings’
    • ‘It edges you away from the tendency towards melodrama that you occasionally get in confessional verse.’
    • ‘I have used the confessional voice in both poetry and prose myself, not because I couldn't contain my urge to express myself, but because I thought that it might well be the best technique for a certain piece.’
    • ‘OK I was just responded to by someone who listened to my stuff, cutting my confessional train of thought off.’
    • ‘‘The tradition of secrecy that exists there is conducive to the confessional aspect of singing and writing songs,’ he says.’
    • ‘This is not necessarily a criticism: refusing to provide much context for their narratives, these songs are guardedly confessional, eager to elicit emotions but hesitant to reveal too much.’
    • ‘Jason coincidentally put up a post about pre-web writings on the same day I stumbled upon a confessional diary of my teenage years.’
    • ‘The reaction to our contemporary confessional culture has altered the meaning of free speech and privacy.’
    • ‘In fact, both are closer to the warts-and-all confessional psychodramas of reality TV.’
    • ‘In a series of confessional encounters with his Dublin therapist, Ian, he reveals the hoarded guilt that rationally explains an irrational phenomenon.’
    • ‘One senses they'd rather have a confessional book.’
    • ‘And the evidence of that confession, or confessional statement, was admitted without objection?’
    • ‘Instead it was a solid, sensible, stately speech, at times confessional, highly personal.’
    • ‘However, in a drunk, confessional moment, she reveals her desire to ‘know why my grandparents were kicked off that island’.’
    • ‘While I'm in a confessional mood, I might as well admit that the technique of salting hashes for increased security in storing passwords had passed me by until recently, too.’
    • ‘With jangly guitars, electronic touches, melancholic melodies, and confessional lyrics, this album is a must have for any indie-pop enthusiast.’
    • ‘Matters get decidedly steamy and a tad too confessional, though the lyrical twists reveal depth and vulnerability alongside the braggadocio.’
    • ‘The project (not so much a blog, don't worry) is an ongoing compilation of anonymous, mailed-in confessional postcards prettied up with thematic drawings or collages.’
    • ‘By confusing the public and the private, today's confessional culture undermines the idea of the ‘public interest’.’
    • ‘Anyhow, it's not a surprise that so many of the examples of this kind are in confessional writing about relationship problems.’
    • ‘Like its multi-platinum predecessor, it's full of yearning tunes and poignant, confessional lyrics that foster an intense and highly personal sense of identification between the band and its fans.’
    1. 1.1Relating to religious confession.
      ‘the priest leaned forward in his best confessional manner’
      • ‘But I did not know until later that our Baptist forefathers had found that wonderful document to be a helpful guide in formulating our early confessional statements.’
      • ‘Church leaders should not use the protection they enjoy from being forced to reveal the confessional conversations they have with parishioners to shield priests accused of child abuse.’
      • ‘However, I would no longer go in a confessional booth and say sorry to some superior being for my mistakes, instead, I learn from them, I could never be sorry for my life experiences.’
      • ‘The confessional language is stunning in its clarity: ‘I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.’’
      • ‘A severe looking priest up front was speaking very softly, only slightly louder than a confessional whisper.’
      • ‘With great scholarly skill, he shows how centuries-old Orthodox religious philosophy and rituals resembled the penitent, confessional modes employed in the Soviet era.’
      • ‘I cried, the shock hurling my voice aloud, out of the confessional whisper.’
      • ‘Did he mean he would violate the confessional seal?’
      • ‘They spoke in a confessional whisper.’
      • ‘It becomes an open diary or confessional booth, where inward thoughts are publicly aired.’
      • ‘Usually once the ‘penitent’, that is, the person going to confession, closes the confessional door, he or she kneels down on a kneeler, or in the case of someone who is elderly or has another reason for doing so, he or she sits down.’
      • ‘Perhaps she might even blurt it out in a confessional whisper.’
  • 2Relating to confessions of faith or doctrinal systems.

    ‘the confessional approach to religious education’
    • ‘He rejected confessional Christianity and allowed religious toleration in his kingdom.’
    • ‘The role of confessional statements in the search for unity and the effect of participation in the Eucharist to establish the fellowship of believers with each other and Jesus Christ are seen as forging an inner link.’
    • ‘Every denomination has its theological articles and books of theology, its liturgies and confessional statements.’
    • ‘In the minds of the Enlightenment thinkers, confessional religion, unless checked by law or by free competition, led inevitably to tyranny and persecution.’
    • ‘Perhaps the textual orientation of cyberspace will reinvigorate the literate modes of Calvinism and other confessional groups.’
    • ‘They started with an a priori assumption that their particular confessional stance descended from the original expression of the Christian faith in the first century.’
    • ‘American confessional Protestantism lacks the strength, influence, and productivity to carry this much weight, and it has been so lacking for a long time.’
    • ‘Institutionally, the field is not best described in the ways better suited to a previous period, using the categories of confessional theology and neutral religious studies.’
    • ‘God is not revealed in words and confessional statements, but as presence.’
    • ‘Christian doctrine identifies the rules by which Christians use confessional language to define the social world that they indwell.’
    • ‘With regard to Baptists becoming teachers in public schools and confessional religious instruction, the situation in Finland has been much the same as in the other Nordic countries.’
    • ‘Religion, especially confessional Christianity, has always concerned itself with authority and certainty.’
    • ‘He was an unashamed confessional Calvinist in an age of doctrinal indifferentism.’
    • ‘Curiously, his weakest section is the book's centerpiece chapter on the phenomenon of confessional Protestantism.’
    • ‘When theological professors and pastors abandon the biblical and confessional doctrine of justification, they sacrifice the gospel and the souls of men.’
    • ‘In the field of confessional theology there have been developments that allow greater receptivity to new ideas.’
    • ‘It is not a confessional religious statement about the nature of God; rather, only the view of the writer/community is presented.’
    • ‘The decree on revelation, moreover, underscored the mystery of our encounter with the divine and hence the inadequacy of all our confessional statements about it.’


Late Middle English (as an adjective): the adjective from confession + -al; the noun via French from Italian confessionale, from medieval Latin, neuter of confessionalis, from Latin confessio(n-), from confiteri acknowledge (see confess).