Definition of atone in US English:



[no object]
  • Make amends or reparation.

    ‘he was being helpful, to atone for his past mistakes’
    • ‘Still, an Ashes series has been lost and lost badly, something for which yesterday's win can compensate but not atone.’
    • ‘Whoever it was who said you spend the first half of your life doing things you spend the second half of your life atoning for was absolutely right.’
    • ‘None of this atones for what he did earlier in his career to deny and delay the full rights of citizenship for black Americans.’
    • ‘His successors on Chicago's south side have a chance to atone for those sins this week.’
    • ‘I realized that the decency of one man atones for the indecency of millions.’
    • ‘I was never sure what I was supposed to be atoning for.’
    • ‘He is desperate to be given a chance to atone for the worst experience of his fledgling career.’
    • ‘Eleven long years later, Langer may have a chance to atone for that miss.’
    • ‘He will have one more chance to atone for his failure in the final of the triangular series against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.’
    • ‘Gollum is a murderer and liar, but he is also a broken-down, pathetic creature, whose torture at the hands of Sauron's minions atoned for many sins.’
    • ‘He will inspire us with his own story, the story of the World Bank, which represents the collective good will of the industrialized West, atoning for centuries of colonialism by working to vanquish poverty from the developing world.’
    • ‘Having atoned for one World Cup cock-up, he is expected to build for the next tournament, which just happens to be in France.’
    • ‘Winger Dave Kilbride added the conversion that partially atoned for an earlier penalty miss to put the visitors seven points up after twenty-two minutes.’
    • ‘Is it possible for that family to make amends and atone for its ill-gotten gains?’
    • ‘This, they hold, gives the man a chance to atone for any hasty decision he might have taken.’
    make amends, make reparation, make restitution, make recompense, make redress, make up for, compensate, pay, pay the penalty, pay the price, recompense, answer
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Middle English (originally in the sense ‘make or become united or reconciled’, rare before the 16th century): from at one in early use; later by back-formation from atonement.