Definition of penance in English:

penance

noun

  • 1Voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.

    ‘he had done public penance for those hasty words’
    • ‘Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.’
    • ‘Unprepared for such transgressions, the sort of penances handed out by the confession booths suddenly seemed rather trifling.’
    • ‘There has to be some penance and retribution for these people.’
    • ‘They appointed rival bishops, collected double taxes, issued conflicting penances, and excommunicated one another's supporters.’
    • ‘After prayers, penances, and many hardships, they captured it in July 1099.’
    • ‘Worldly attempts to change the state of one's soul through indulgences and penances were meaningless.’
    • ‘But that, he said, was really a political deal, shored up with appropriate penances.’
    • ‘They may also lie on beds of nails, walk on fire and undertake other penances to build character and atone for sins.’
    • ‘There are all sorts of hidden penances we can do, such as not putting salt or tomato ketchup on our chips.’
    • ‘As time went on, the ritual and the length of the penances which were given also changed.’
    • ‘But such a desire can be forgiven, as long as one takes the proper penances into consideration.’
    • ‘He confesses and receives penances twice, once on the verge of execution, then finally is deemed insane and committed to an asylum at the close of his third trial.’
    • ‘There are similarities in the practices of both sects: initiation is by tearing out the hair, and the lifestyle is one of extreme austerity involving nakedness, penances, and ordeals.’
    • ‘I simply mean that they are now living the suffering they've inflicted on others as penance for their sins.’
    • ‘In the bitter cold of winter, the yogi undertook various penances which, it was said, gave him great powers.’
    • ‘Some people like to stand miserably in the rain, taking each cold splash of water as flagellation from the heavens, enduring the torrent as penance for their internalised sense of guilt.’
    • ‘I wasn't going to have to start wearing a brown habit with rusty chains underneath as penance for my wrong doings.’
    • ‘Neighboring monks became upset with him over a theological dispute, and his health deteriorated under the rigors of his fasting and penances.’
    • ‘His earlier life of self-indulgence had been unsatisfying, as was his six-year experiment with ascetic penances.’
    • ‘Speaking of which, will the guidelines for penances have to be re-written?’
    atonement, expiation, self-punishment, self-mortification, self-abasement, reparation, amends, penalty, punishment
    atone, make amends, make recompense, make reparation, make restitution, make up, redeem oneself, pay the penalty, pay, recompense, pay the price, expiate, redress, compensate
    View synonyms
  • 2A Christian sacrament in which a member of the Church confesses sins to a priest and is given absolution.

    In the Roman Catholic Church often called sacrament of reconciliation
    • ‘The penitent then leaves the confessional and goes and prays his penance in the church.’
    • ‘He prayed with the unknown man, gave him some penance and suggested he go to confession more often.’
    • ‘And it is not just your neighbourhood parish priest who is due for confession, penance and civil punishment.’
    • ‘Thomas of Chobham, author of a thirteenth-century confessional manual on penance, addressed this issue directly in his work.’
    • ‘In Dante's Purgatorio, the principle of sacramental penance holds sway.’
    • ‘Through our open admission of our sins, the priest's absolution, and the acts of penance, we can know God's healing.’
    • ‘For centuries, confession or penance (as it was alternatively called) was the linchpin of the Catholic sacramental economy.’
    • ‘Lent stirs up thoughts of penance and sacrifice and struggle.’
    • ‘This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.’
    • ‘Every week they sinned quite a bit but on a Friday they would go and confess, do whatever they had to do as penance, then go out sinning again.’
    • ‘The gospel called not for an act of penance but for a radical change of mind-set and an equally deep transformation of life.’
    • ‘A first step is for bishops to recommit themselves, in the spirit of penance and reconciliation, to the annual independent reviews.’
    • ‘This ritual of confession, absolution and penance inadvertently hides as much as it discloses.’
    • ‘A few years ago our parish hosted several priests who provided unusual penance services.’
    • ‘If he did, a public penance would be imposed and his sin would be absolved.’
    • ‘In the fragile and apocalyptic early church, penance was conceived as a public reconciliation, necessary to the very existence of the congregation.’
    • ‘There is irony in this: just as sacramental penance has disappeared, a more generalized confessional culture seems to have exploded.’
    • ‘These monasteries would be places where the primary purpose would be to search for the face of God, sharing in the redemptive work of Christ in prayer and penance.’
    • ‘We are members of one another and it is entirely fitting for the Church as a whole to do penance for the sins of the clergy.’
    • ‘This is the reason why we go to them for penance (the sacrament for confession of sins or repentance).’
    1. 2.1 A religious observance or other duty required of a person by a priest as part of this sacrament to indicate repentance.
      • ‘He's doing an act of penance, and in the Hindu religion it's a renunciation.’
      • ‘Will eternity be long enough to allow the penance required?’
      • ‘How, for example, would you explain religious sacrifice and penance which are an important motivator for many non-western consumers?’
      • ‘Is confession really so good for the soul, especially when it requires no penance?’
      • ‘Readers, I have sinned, and penance suggestions may be required.’
      • ‘The head priest gave him blessed, medicated ghee to take in the early morning for 41 days while observing a penance.’
      • ‘I'm doing my duty and my penance now, but I'll always be a woman who loves a good show.’
      • ‘They extended to religious observance and penance, or expiation, though in the later period there is a tendency to concentrate on what looks more today, in the west, like law.’
      • ‘Slavery could be imposed as a religious penance or a criminal punishment.’
      • ‘On the minus side, being presented with such an array of dishes almost always results in the type of culinary blow-out which requires hours of penance in the gym afterwards.’

verb

[WITH OBJECT]archaic
  • Impose a penance on.

    ‘a hair shirt to penance him for his folly in offending’
    • ‘They confess sins, do penance and engage in bhakti and karma yoga to raise consciousness.’
    • ‘For instance, if in an emotional dream you injured someone intentionally, you could perform a simple penance the next day to atone, such as fasting one meal.’

Origin

Middle English: from Old French, from Latin paenitentia ‘repentance’, from the verb paenitere ‘be sorry’.

Pronunciation

penance

/ˈpenəns//ˈpɛnəns/