Definitions

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

  • noun An act of self-mortification or devotion performed voluntarily to show sorrow for a sin or other wrongdoing.
  • noun A sacrament in some Christian churches that includes contrition, confession to a priest, acceptance of punishment, and absolution.
  • transitive verb To impose penance upon.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To inflict penance upon; discipline by penance.
  • noun Penitence; repentance.
  • noun Sorrow for sin shown by outward acts; self-punishment expressive of penitence or repentance; the suffering to which a person voluntarily subjects himself, as by fasting, flagellation, self-imposed tasks, etc., as an expression of penitence; the outward acts by which sorrow for sin is shown.
  • noun Eccles., sorrow for sin shown by outward acts under authority and regulation of the church; contrition manifested by confession and satisfaction and entitling to absolution; hence, absolution ensuing upon contrition and confession with satisfaction or purpose of satisfaction.
  • noun The penalty or discipline imposed by the priest in the above sacrament.
  • noun Hence Any act of austerity or asceticism practised with a religious motive.
  • noun Suffering; sorrow; misery.
  • noun An instrument or means of self-punishment used by persons undergoing penance either inflicted or voluntary.
  • noun To show one's self repentant by submitting to the punishment of censure or suffering.

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

  • noun obsolete Repentance.
  • noun obsolete Pain; sorrow; suffering.
  • noun (Eccl.) A means of repairing a sin committed, and obtaining pardon for it, consisting partly in the performance of expiatory rites, partly in voluntary submission to a punishment corresponding to the transgression, imposed by a confessor or other ecclesiastical authority. Penance is the fourth of seven sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church.
  • noun colloq. Any act performed by a person to atone for an offense to another; an act of atonement.
  • transitive verb To impose penance; to punish.

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

  • noun A voluntary self-imposed punishment for a sinful act or wrongdoing. It may be intended to serve as reparation for the act.
  • noun A sacrament in some Christian churches.
  • verb To impose penance; to punish.

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

  • noun a Catholic sacrament; repentance and confession and atonement and absolution
  • noun remorse for your past conduct
  • noun voluntary self-punishment in order to atone for some wrongdoing

Etymologies

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

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin paenitentia, penitence, from paenitēns, paenitent-, penitent; see penitent.]

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