Definitions

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

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Repentance.
  • n. Pain; sorrow; suffering.
  • n. 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.
  • n. Any act performed by a person to atone for an offense to another; an act of atonement.
  • transitive v. To impose penance; to punish.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Penitence; repentance.
  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. The penalty or discipline imposed by the priest in the above sacrament.
  • n. Hence Any act of austerity or asceticism practised with a religious motive.
  • n. Suffering; sorrow; misery.
  • n. An instrument or means of self-punishment used by persons undergoing penance either inflicted or voluntary.
  • n. To show one's self repentant by submitting to the punishment of censure or suffering.
  • To inflict penance upon; discipline by penance.

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

  • n. a Catholic sacrament; repentance and confession and atonement and absolution
  • n. remorse for your past conduct
  • n. 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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