“During his stay in prison, the felon expressed penitence for his crimes.”

What is the best definition of penitence?

Check your answer!

Choice A - The admission of guilt
Choice B - An act of forgiveness
Choice C - The sincere expression of remorse
Choice D - A feigned or half-hearted apology


Penitence (noun) – the humble and sorrowful expression of regret or remorse

Alternate forms of word:

Penitent (adjective) – humbly and sorrowfully expressing regret or remorse

Penitent (noun) – a person who expresses penitence

Penitential (adjective) – characterized by the expression of penitence

GRE pro tips:

You’ve surely heard of a penitentiary, another name for a jail or prison. Back in the day, the “penitentiary” was so named because one of its goals was to inspire penitence in the criminals who served their time. But, of course, it’s not guaranteed that being in prison will make one truly penitent. The true expression of penitence requires sincere remorse, or humble and sorrowful regret for one’s actions. True penitence cannot be forced – it must come from within!

Example sentences:

“I was not willing to offer my forgiveness without clear indications of his penitence.”

“The penitent had returned to make amends.”

“The child was forced to remain in the penitential seclusion of his bedroom.”