One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A member of a religious society of flagellants in the south-western United States, which flourished primarily in the 19th cent.
2Physical Geography. With lower-case initial. = "penitent".
Mid 19th century. From Spanish penitente penitent, also in transferred use in sense 2, apparently on account of the resemblance of the peak to a penitent's cowl from classical Latin penitent-, penitēns.
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