Penance vs pittance

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Penance and pittance are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and may be considered confusables. We will examine the different meanings of the confusables penance and pittance, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

Penance is reparation for a transgression; it is punishment or a discipline one imposes on oneself to repent of wrongdoing. Penance is a sacrament in the Christian church where a penitent confesses sins to a priest and the priest grants absolution, in exchange for reparation. The word penance is derived from the Latin word, paenitentia, which means repentance.

A pittance is a trivial amount of money; a pittance is insufficient. The word pittance is derived from the Latin word, pietas, meaning pity.


Senior members of France’s Roman Catholic hierarchy knelt in a show of penance at the shrine of Lourdes on Saturday, a day after bishops accepted the church’s responsibility for decades of child abuse. (Guardian)

A day after praising West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for rising as the “face of Opposition” for the 2024 Lok Sabha election, BJP’s Tripura MLA Ashish Das Tuesday shaved his head and offered puja at Kolkata’s Kalighat Temple as a mark of penance and announced to give up his MLAship and leave the saffron party. (Indian Express)

While this is a high price compared with the recent past, it’s still a small pittance compared to the price of a full share of Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) stock. (Winston-Salem Journal)

Zooming through the West Bank desert on their lawbreaking quest to transport desperate Palestinian workers across the border into Israel, the Bedouin drivers bravely dodge occupying forces day in and day out, risking serious jail time for a pittance. (Filmmaker Magazine)