from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong; expiation.
  • noun Judaism An individual's reconciliation with God by means of repentance and confession of one's transgressions.
  • noun Christianity The reconciliation of God and humans brought about by the redemptive life and death of Jesus.
  • noun Obsolete Reconciliation; concord.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Reconciliation after enmity or controversy; settlement, as of a difference; concord.
  • noun Satisfaction or reparation made for wrong or injury, either by giving some equivalent or by doing or suffering something which is received in lieu of an equivalent.
  • noun In theology, the reconciliation of God and man by means of the life, sufferings, and death of Christ.
  • noun This doctrine assumes that sin has made a spiritual separation between God and the human soul. Different systems of theology explain differently the method of reconciliation, and therefore use the word atonement with different meanings. The early fathers generally stated the doctrine in the terms of Scripture, and it was not until the time of the Reformation that the differences in philosophical statement were clearly marked. The modern statements may be grouped under four general heads, as follows: A reparation or satisfaction for sin made by the sufferings of Christ as a substitute for the sinner, and in lieu of the punishment to which the sinner was justly amenable. Such satisfaction is regarded as necessary either to satisfy the justice of God, and so make forgiveness possible, or to satisfy the law of God, produce the public impression which punishment would have produced, and so make forgiveness safe. The former is known as the satisfaction, the latter as the governmental theory.
  • noun The entrance of God into humanity, that he may thereby drive out sin and make the human race at one with himself.
  • noun The majority of orthodox divines, whether in the Roman Catholic or the Protestant churches, ordinarily hold one of the above views or a combination formed from them. In general, the former opinion is held in the Calvinistic school of theology, the latter opinion
  • noun in the more modern Broad Church school.
  • noun In Unitarian theology, the moral result produced by the influence exerted on mankind by the life and death of Christ, leading men to repentance and to God. This is sometimes known as the moral influence theory of the atonement.
  • noun In New Church (Swedenborgian) theology, the union and accord of flesh and spirit in man, and so the union and accord of man with God by a spiritual change wrought in the individual.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Archaic Reconciliation; restoration of friendly relations; agreement; concord.
  • noun Satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury, or by doing of suffering that which will be received in satisfaction for an offense or injury; expiation; amends; -- with for. Specifically, in theology: The expiation of sin made by the obedience, personal suffering, and death of Christ.
  • noun (Jewish Antiq.) the only fast day of the Mosaic ritual, celebrated on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishri), according to the rites described in Leviticus xvi. Also called Yom Kippur.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A repair done for the sake of a damaged relationship.
  • noun theology, often with capitalized initial The reconciliation of God and mankind through the death of Jesus.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun compensation for a wrong
  • noun the act of atoning for sin or wrongdoing (especially appeasing a deity)


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Perhaps from atone +‎ -ment; however, the noun is found earlier than the verb (atone); and in this light, the proper etymology is at +‎ onement.


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  • Attonement for himself or offering meet,

    Indebted and undon, hath none to bring ...

    Milton, Paradise Lost III

    December 18, 2006