from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A person (usually a man) who is supposed to take sins of a deceased person upon himself by means of eating a piece of bread, laid for him on the breast of the dead one.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Formerly, in some parts of England, one who was hired in connection with funeral rites to eat a piece of bread placed near the bier, and who by this symbol took upon himself the sins of the deceased, that the departed soul might rest in peace.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • The convenient ‘other’; the outside, the unbeliever, the black sheep, the scapegoat, the sin-eater.

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  • Instead they must send all their money and pancakes to the fattest religious leader who, like the traditional sin-eater, takes on all their impurities and because of his heightened spiritual awareness can get rich and fat without his soul being tainted.

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  • It is similar to the ritual of the sin-eater, the person who would take on by means of food and drink the sins of a deceased person, thus absolving his or her soul and allowing that person to rest in peace.

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  • Finder book 1 : sin-eater / Annapolis Junction, MD : Lightspeed Press, c2007

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  • As the sin-eater came closer, I saw that his body was crooked; he seemed caved in on one side, ribs perhaps crushed by some accident.

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  • And in her wanderings, had come upon the isolated cabin of the sin-eater, that strange, damaged man.

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  • In "The Sin-Eater," one of the best of his writings that might be classed as a short story, the sin-eater and his confidant are Highlanders, but the description of the scene of his misfortune, the steading of the Blairs, might well have been that nearest to "Silence Farm."

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  • "Hunger he understood, touch, desire," the poet writes of the sin-eater.

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  • Fans of the TV series "Night Gallery" may recall a memorable 1972 episode in which Richard Thomas plays a sin-eater.

    News -

  • For a small fee, the sin-eater would gladly scarf down a meal (usually bread and ale) that had been placed on the deceased's chest.

    mental_floss Blog


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  • a man who (according to a former practice in England) for a small gratuity ate a piece of bread laid on the chest of a dead person, whereby he was supposed to have taken the sins of the dead person upon himself.

    Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

    December 30, 2006