Definition of penitent in English:



  • Feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong; repentant.

    ‘a penitent expression’
    • ‘The question is a very basic one: Who has the authority to make such a penitent apology, and for whom would that person speak?’
    • ‘A hangover after being drunk is precisely the time when the penitent drinker is likely to groan never again.’
    • ‘Don't think for a second that you won't have to suffer in some sort of penitent silence.’
    • ‘Ignoring his penitent air, the headlines next morning cast him, to his own gratification, as the ultimate evil-doer.’
    • ‘What they did find was a party leader in penitent mood who came not to put fire in bellies or cajole into action, but with a limp apology.’
    • ‘Would I need to break down in penitent tears to get any praise?’
    • ‘Her solicitor - partly responsible for keeping the 24 year-old's spirits high - approves of the abasement and thus advertises to the world that here is a penitent woman.’
    • ‘After a moment of penitent silence, Arthur continued.’
    • ‘Third conclusion: if nothing works, one last route to redemption remains - the penitent news conference.’
    • ‘In short, a penitent soul in Hell is a flat contradiction in terms.’
    • ‘His Marine Society, founded at the start of the Seven Years War in 1756, started boys on careers in the navy, and in 1758 he helped to establish the Magdalen hospital for penitent prostitutes.’
    • ‘If theft were promoted in the name of St Dismas, penitent thief, how would we react?’
    • ‘He was like a penitent man who was fighting for repentance to some grave sin he had committed.’
    • ‘Now the Reporter is guarding against a penitent man experiencing the mercy of God.’
    • ‘The climax of the film to me was the love and compassion shown by Jesus when, after all that He had suffered, He was still able to be concerned for others, the soldiers, who inflicted so much pain, the penitent thief, and also for His mother.’
    • ‘The penitent man stands a chance of getting off.’
    • ‘We see here a truly humble and penitent man doing what he knows is the right thing.’
    • ‘Perhaps it is its former penitent associations for those of us brought up in the no meat on Fridays rule era.’
    • ‘There is nothing more beautiful than the mercy God shows a penitent heart.’
    • ‘One subject matter which could be profitably pursued by students who have completed an apprenticeship is an under-exploited topic from the iconographic tradition: the penitent sinner.’
    repentant, contrite, regretful, remorseful, sorry, apologetic, conscience-stricken, rueful, ashamed, shamefaced, abject
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  • 1A person who repents their sins and (in the Christian Church) seeks forgiveness from God.

    • ‘The truly penitent know that complexification is the enemy of forgiveness.’
    • ‘But he always seemed to me to be a model of what a Christian penitent should be and I was always grateful for him.’
    • ‘Note however, that the ‘minister’ of the sacrament was initially not the priest but the monk or nun who was the soul mate or the spiritual director of the penitent.’
    • ‘For Mark, Jesus is wholly identified with the penitent.’
    • ‘It would entail suspension from Eucharistic communion and taking one's seat in a special part of the church building reserved for penitents.’
    • ‘Unless we have solid evidence that the penitent is deceiving us, we are clearly not to withhold it.’
    • ‘So, in a picturesque scene, just as Dante and Virgil doze off on the ledge of lento amore, they are awakened by a crowd of penitents rushing by, shouting and weeping with overwrought passion.’
    • ‘The play is set mainly a convent laundry in rural Ireland in 1963 and it was inspired by the now infamous practice of making pregnant and unwed Irish mothers work as penitents in church-run laundries, known as Magdalene Laundries.’
    • ‘I believe that these model penitents were aimed primarily at pilgrims to the tomb of Saint Francis and that they introduced an iconographic theme of hope versus despair that was continued throughout the transepts.’
    • ‘The penitent will then say ‘bless me Father/forgive me Father for I have sinned.’’
    • ‘The shame attendant on confessing to sexual sin should not be underestimated, especially for penitents raised on preternaturally high standards with regard to purity.’
    • ‘Thus few priests by the 1920s were commending ‘periodic continence’ to their most troubled penitents, although it was licit for them to do so.’
    • ‘The author meditates on the sweetness in the midst of bitterness of Christ's life, and asks that Christ would with his sweet mercy protect the penitent from the acids of sickness, sin, and temptation.’
    • ‘It looks very much like Mary first anointed Jesus' feet as a penitent, then again in gratitude for the raising of Lazarus, and finally she attempted to anoint him after his death.’
    • ‘Rather, once a person has properly repented, including making appropriate recompense, then He freely forgives the penitent.’
    • ‘The medieval legends are numerous, their variety reflecting the ever-present tension between the earlier witness/apostle and the later penitent / contemplative.’
    • ‘Moving across the earth, close to the ground, in a small band of fellow penitents bearing a pilgrim scallop shell as their talisman, sinners pondered their own life journey, and listened to the tales of others along the way.’
    • ‘The Western tradition was to conclude that Mary Magdalene was the presumed sexual sinner who was lionised not as any kind of apostle but as ‘the penitent.’’
    • ‘More painful was one's inability to give firm guidance to the many penitents who still asked, and now sometimes argued, about church teaching on contraception.’
    • ‘I can see that part of the Church's mission is forgiveness and second chances for the penitent.’
    1. 1.1(in the Roman Catholic Church) a person who confesses their sins to a priest and submits to the penance that he imposes.
      • ‘And it is to turn the form of confession into one in which the penitent interrogates the confessor.’
      • ‘Public confessions were made, and penitents touched a wampum belt as a pledge of reform.’
      • ‘Priestly absolution would follow only on inquiring whether such a confession was properly understood and made, and ascertaining the penitent's sorrow.’
      • ‘In the Catholic tradition, absolution from sin is obtained through confession, in which the penitent confesses to a priest who then absolves the sin and administers penitence.’
      • ‘The penitent then leaves the confessional and goes and prays his penance in the church.’
      • ‘Father Gregory was used to the awkward silence of penitents, especially those who had not confessed in years.’
      • ‘A person guilty of serious sin confessed to a bishop or presbyter appointed to this office, enrolled in the order of penitents, did penance and was reconciled on Holy Thursday in a solemn ceremony just prior to the offertory.’
      • ‘Journalists and their confidential sources have a special relationship, as inviolate as doctor and patient or priest and penitent.’
      • ‘We have to protect that confidentiality and we insist on personal confession of the penitent to the priests.’
      • ‘And that, children, is why the Church's sacrament of confession is done in private: to protect the penitent.’
      • ‘The priest awoke the next day, duly penitent and very sore but completely prepared to spread the fame of Saint Nicetius, a fame that became so great that the Basilica of the Apostles came to be known as Saint-Nizier.’
      • ‘He prevailed upon them to sign the document with him, then in a deliberate piece of theatre, he donned the garb of a penitent, imposed a fast upon himself and publicly repented of his oath.’
      • ‘We have a husband-wife privilege, a doctor-patient privilege, an attorney-client privilege and even a privilege between priest and penitent.’
      • ‘Or, if confession was allowed, the penitent was not allowed to receive Communion (at the time, the two sacraments were usually taken together).’
      • ‘The principal clerical journals carried articles that encouraged confessors to ask penitents about ‘sins against marriage’ whenever the penitent gave cause for suspicion in this regard.’
      • ‘This difference between divine and human justice makes necessary the secrecy of the confessional - what the penitent confesses is for God's tribunal of mercy alone, not for men.’
      • ‘Ultimately, as a social phenomenon, it was about the relationship between a confessor and his penitents.’
      • ‘So the priest hears confessions and restores the penitent, not only to fellowship with God, but to fellowship with the injured Body, by the grace of God.’
      • ‘His favoured tool was the confession note, a certificate confirming that a penitent had been confessed by an authorized priest.’
      • ‘Steven takes a seat in a back pew while Julia walks forward to sit outside the confessional, where she waits a short moment for another penitent to emerge before entering herself.’


Middle English: from Old French, from Latin paenitent- repenting, from the verb paenitere.