Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone feels bad about it afterward, and if you’re someone who has regretted something you did, that sorrowful feeling was penitence.

Penitence shares the same Latin root as the verb repent, which means “to express regret.” It’s also connected to the word penitentiary, another word for prison. Sometimes penitence is so painful you might think you deserve to be in prison. The good news is that unless you committed a serious crime, you can probably apologize and that display of penitence is usually enough for forgiveness. Be careful: although the last half sounds like tense, it’s actually spelled with a c.

Definitions of penitence

n remorse for your past conduct

penance, repentance
Type of:
compunction, remorse, self-reproach
a feeling of deep regret (usually for some misdeed)

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