Definition of shrive in English:



[with object]archaic
  • 1(of a priest) hear the confession of, assign penance to, and absolve.

    ‘none of her chaplains knew English or French enough to shrive the king’
    • ‘Without the direct intervention of God's angels, William cannot recognize it and be shriven of it.’
    • ‘In the week immediately before lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him and make pancakes.’
    • ‘Pascal accompanies the priest on his regular visit to shrive the residents of the local mental hospital, and finds himself hearing one of the confessions, almost but not quite by accident.’
    pardon, absolution, exoneration, remission, dispensation, indulgence, understanding, tolerance, purgation, clemency, mercy, pity, lenience, leniency, quarter
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1shrive oneself Present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution.
      • ‘His brother reminded him that he ought to go to the Monastery and shrive himself before Father Eustace, who would that day occupy the confessional.’
      • ‘Neither is he one of those Fianna Fáil people who argues that the party needs to shrive itself and get back to basics.’
      • ‘Prince Hamlet explains that the murderers killed his father twice because not only did they slay his body but by killing him unexpectedly, he had no occasion to shrive himself.’
      • ‘Moreover, contrition must be continual, and a man must keep and hold a steadfast purpose to shrive himself and to amend his way of life.’
      • ‘And if he live until his last day, scarcely then may he shrive himself or then remember his sins, or repent of them, because of the grievous malady about to cause his death.’


Old English scrīfan ‘impose as a penance’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch schrijven and German schreiben ‘write’, from Latin scribere ‘write’.