Bespoke Artisanal Handcrafted English

In writing my latest MercatorNet article I wanted to use the adjectival form of “penance”.

Penance is “punishment inflicted on oneself as an outward expression of repentance for wrongdoing.”

Such punishment could be described as….what exactly?

The first thought is “penitent”, but penitent is the adjectival (and nominal) form of “penitence”.

Penitence isn’t penance exactly, rather it’s “the action of feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong”.

Historically it looks like penitence had the adjectival form penitent, which then became the nominal form (“the penitent person” becomes simply “the penitent”).

The alternative adjectival form “penitential” came a bit later, borrowing directly from the Latin adjective.

Penance came indirectly from the same Latin as penitence, via Anglo-French, but there doesn’t appear to be any adjectival form available.

The pattern of penitence would suggest “penant” as the adjectival form of penance.

The only reference I can find to such a word is the nominal form in Chaucer: penant – one who does penance.

I ended up using “penant” as an adjective in my article. “Penant qualities”, for example, and I have to say I’m unrepentant.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s