The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is atone. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.
What It Means
// James tried to atone for the wrongdoings of his youth by devoting his life to helping others.
ATONE in Context
“After a childhood act of cowardice, Amir spends most of the play reflecting on and trying to atone for his failure to come to the aid of his best friend.” — Laura Zornosa, The New York Times, 1 July 2022
Did You Know?
Atone has its roots in the idea of reconciliation and harmony. It grew out of the Middle English phrase at on meaning “in harmony,” a phrase echoed in current expressions like “feeling at one with nature.” When atone joined modern English in the 16th century, it meant “to reconcile,” and suggested the restoration of a peaceful and harmonious state between people or groups. Today, atone specifically implies addressing the damage—or disharmony—caused by one’s own behavior.
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