Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A confession of sin.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • interj. An expression of guilt or culpability.
  • n. An act of saying ‘peccavi’; an admission of guilt or responsibility.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • I have sinned; -- used colloquially to express confession or acknowledgment of an offense; -- used rarely, superseded by the approximate equivalent mea culpa.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. I have sinned; I am guilty; it is my fault.

Etymologies

Latin peccāvī, I have sinned, first person sing. perfect tense of peccāre, to sin; see peccable.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin peccāvī ("I have sinned"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Nevertheless, all uniformitarians had better at once cry "peccavi," -- not but what I feel a conviction that the world will be found rather older than Thomson makes it, and far older than the reviewer makes it.

    More Letters of Charles Darwin — Volume 1

  • His dispatch to the British War Office in London contained only the Latin verb peccavi, meaning ` I have sinned '[Scinde].

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol VII No 1

  • Among them three were especially widely disseminated: Domine, da nobis auxilium and Domine deus omnipotens for six voices, and Pater, peccavi in caelum for eight.

    Archive 2009-06-01

  • Then, after every other verse, he would repeat, with a pause: "Tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci… He uttered the words plaintively, sighing profoundly and weeping, and moved with such a lofty idea of God and of His infinite sanctity that the Brother infirmarian was siezed with a holy dread."

    New issue of "Catholic"

  • The coulpe or peccavi, is made for a very small matter — a broken glass, a torn veil, an involuntary delay of a few seconds at an office, a false note in church, etc.; this suffices, and the coulpe is made.

    Les Miserables

  • Adolescenti (saith Erasmus) acknowledging his fault, et gravissime peccavi, and so may [2068] I say myself, I have offended in this, and so peradventure have many others.

    Anatomy of Melancholy

  • After the clergyman has cried his peccavi, suppose we hoist up a bishop, and give him a couple of dozen!

    Roundabout Papers

  • Quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo et opere by digby

    Hullabaloo

  • The cry of peccavi sounds soft and pretty when made by sweet lips in a loving voice.

    The Claverings

  • He will receive $28,000 in cash, scholarships and bonds for spelling words like prosciutto, cabochon and peccavi.

    CNN Transcript Jun 2, 2005

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Comments

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  • A couple of added details that may be of interest:

    1) It is actually quite impossible that Napier, stationed in India (now Pakistan) could have sent such a telegram, for the simple reason that in the early 1840s the telegraph was only just beginning to be used in England and America (Morse's famous demonstration took place in 1844) and was not used in India till the 1850s.

    2) Some versions of the story speak of Napier's telegraphing London. This would have been even more difficult. Intercontinental connections came even later. Thus a telegram from India to Britain was not possible till the late 1860s. A bit late to send the news!

    2)Hymnsingers with a special love for the German chorale should be familiar with the name of the young lady of this story. Ms. Winkworth went on to help popularize German chorales (such as Luther's "A Mighty Fortress is Our God") by her English translations, many of them the "standard" version in English hymnbooks.



    March 8, 2009

  • I've known this one for years, and only now — not that I'm particularly surprised — found it's an apocryphal tale. The most complete (and presumably verifiable!) reference I have:

    The magazine Punch (May 18, 1844) published a letter from a 17 year old Ms. Catherine Winkworth suggesting that Napier's despatch to Lord E. should have read "Peccavi" (I have sinned). Thus, the famous wordplay was, in fact, a tongue-in-cheek insult.

    http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/INDIA-BRITISH-RAJ/2005-11/1132988836

    December 15, 2007

  • There's a story that in 1843, after annexing the Indian province of Sind, British General Sir Charles Napier sent home a telegram with the one word, "Peccavi" implying "I have Sind."

    Then later, when another general annexed another Indian province, some wit wrote:

    "Peccavi" - I've Sind - wrote Napier so proud;
    More briefly Dalhousie wrote "Vovi" - I've Oudh.

    (Peccavi in Latin is "I have sinned;" vovi is "I vowed")

    Source: http://wordsmith.org/awad/awadmail167.html

    December 2, 2006