Definition of venial in English:



Christian Theology
  • 1Denoting a sin that is not regarded as depriving the soul of divine grace.

    ‘we cannot prevent ourselves sometimes from dreaming of performing venial if not mortal sins’
    Often contrasted with mortal
    ‘everything I've disclosed up to now can be seen as venial’
    • ‘Faught is guilty of this offense, but the sin is a venial one.’
    • ‘So does Michelle consider Tony's slip of the tongue and miraculous recovery of memory a venial or a mortal sin?’
    • ‘Confession had always rested on a clear distinction between mortal and venial sins.’
    • ‘If that's not a mortal sin, it's got to be up there on the venial meter.’
    • ‘Yet despite their magnitude, these sins are of the venial rather than the mortal variety.’
    1. 1.1 (of a fault or offence) slight and pardonable.
      • ‘Epstein openly admits to some ignoble if venial attitudes.’
      • ‘For a start, it's hard to imagine a more venial form of corruption than merely speeding along someone's visa application.’
      • ‘It was a venial mistake on Hume's part to include a reference to the mind's propensity in what was supposed to be a definition of causality.’
      • ‘Even quite venial offenders were sentenced to death.’
      • ‘Luckily, the production is strong enough elsewhere for this to remain a venial sin.’
      pardonable, forgivable, excusable, condonable, tolerable, permissible, allowable, understandable, justifiable
      View synonyms


Venal and venial are sometimes confused. Venal means ‘susceptible to bribery, corrupt’, as in local customs officers are notoriously venal, whereas venial is used to refer to a sin or offence that is excusable or pardonable, as opposed to a mortal sin


Middle English: via Old French from late Latin venialis, from venia ‘forgiveness’.