Penitent means deeply sorry, ashamed, and full of remorse. If you feel sorry––or just want to appear to––you should adopt a penitent manner.

Penitent comes from the Latin word paenitere, which means to repent. It can be either noun or adjective. Though it's not restricted to them, penitent often pops up in religious contexts, particularly as a noun, as in, "The penitent threw herself at the bishop's feet and begged forgiveness for her sins."

Definitions of penitent
  1. adjective
    feeling or expressing remorse for misdeeds
    synonyms: repentant
    feeling shame or guilt or embarrassment or remorse
    bad, regretful, sorry
    feeling or expressing regret or sorrow or a sense of loss over something done or undone
    contrite, remorseful, rueful, ruthful
    feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offenses
    penitential, penitentiary
    showing or constituting penance
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    impenitent, unremorseful, unrepentant
    not penitent or remorseful
    used of persons or their behavior; feeling no shame
    unregenerate, unregenerated
    not reformed morally or spiritually
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  2. noun
    (Roman Catholic Church) a person who repents for wrongdoing (a Roman Catholic may be admitted to penance under the direction of a confessor)
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    a person who whips himself as a religious penance
    type of:
    religious person
    a person who manifests devotion to a deity
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