The Meaning of Atonement: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the meaning of atonement? This guide will provide you with all of the information you need on this interesting new word!

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What Does the Word Atonement Mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary, the word atonement is a noun that refers to expiation or reparation for wrongdoing. The word atonement is three syllables (a-tone-ment), and the pronunciation of atonement is əˈtoʊnmənt.

Religious Context

According to Britannica, the word atonement is used in various religions and theological studies to refer to a reconciliation with God. This term is sometimes associated with sacrifice, cleanliness, and moral purity. People often believe that atonement strengthens their relationship with divine or holy beings.

In Christianity, the concept of atonement is closely related to the death of Jesus Christ for the atonement of the sins of humankind. The death of Jesus occurs for the forgiveness of sins and to prevent the wrath of God. The concept of sin and atonement is seen throughout the Bible, such as in Genesis with Adam and Eve, in Leviticus with the Israelites, and in other gospels of the scriptures in the Old Testament and New Testament like Matthew, Exodus, Ephesians, John, Romans, and Corinthians.

In Judaism, the holiday Yom Kippur is seen as the Day of Atonement. While vicarious atonement is not very significantly present in Judaism, the idea of atonement for individual sin is. The holiday of Yom Kippur is centered around the concepts of atonement and repentance. 

What Are Translations of the Word Atonement?

The concept of atonement is present in religions such as Christianity and Judaism, both of which are practiced worldwide. Therefore, the word atonement has many translations in numerous languages.

This list of translations of atonement can help you start discussing the concept of atonement in languages around the world:

  • Turkish: tazminat‎, telafi‎
  • French: propitiation‎ (fem.)
  • Hungarian: kiengesztelés‎
  • Greek: επανόρθωση‎ (fem.)
  • Spanish: desagravio‎ (masc.)
  • Portuguese: reconciliação‎ (fem.)
  • Mandarin: 補償‎, 贖罪‎
  • Bulgarian: изкупване‎
  • Romanian: răscumpărare‎ (fem.), reconciliere‎ (fem.), remușcare‎ (fem.)
  • Dutch: herstel‎ (neut.)
  • Scottish Gaelic: rèite‎ (fem.)
  • Serbo-Croatian: pomirenje‎ (neut.), pomirba‎ (fem.)
  • Russian: примире́ние‎ (neut.)
  • Italian: riconciliazione‎ (fem.), ammenda‎, riparazione‎, redenzione‎ (fem.)
  • Finnish: hyvitys‎, sovitus‎
  • Czech: odčinění‎ (neut.), udobření‎ (neut.), náprava‎ (fem.)
  • German: Wiedergutmachung‎ (fem.), Versöhnung‎ (fem.), Sühneopfer‎ (neut.), Ersatz‎ (masc.)
  • Polish: pokuta‎ (fem.)
  • Catalan: expiació‎ (fem.)

How Can the Word Atonement Be Used in a Sentence?

While the word atonement is most often associated with religion, it can also be used in numerous other sentences in English. Here, it will be used to refer to reparations, apologies, and repentance for some sort of injury or wronging. 

After you study these example sentences containing the word atonement, see if you can use it in a sentence of your own as practice:

Example 1: The Broken Window

As atonement for throwing his baseball through his neighbor’s window, Michael apologized to the homeowners, cleaned up their broken glass, and worked hard through the summer to pay for the repair.

Question: What does Michael atone for?

Answer: The broken window. 

Example 2: The Guilty Infidel

Chris tried to figure out what he could do as atonement for cheating on Rebecca, but she refused to talk to him. It didn’t matter if it was one drunken night or a premeditated tryst; nothing Chris could say would get Rebecca to take him back.

Question: What does Chris atone for?

Answer: Cheating on his girlfriend, Rebecca.

Example 3: An Excess of Apologies

As atonement for missing her girlfriend’s birthday dinner, Taelor turned their whole house into a scavenger hunt filled with Caela’s favorite things. Caela could see that Taelor was genuinely sorry for missing the dinner and forgave her.

Question: What does Taelor atone for?

Answer: Missing her girlfriend Caela’s birthday dinner.

Example 4: A Hollow Apology

After he got caught lying to his girlfriend Rhienne, Tony apologized with hollow atonement. He apologized for the fact that what he did hurt Rhienne’s feelings, not that he actually committed the hurtful action.

Question: What does Tony atone for?

Answer: Lying to his girlfriend, Rhienne.

What Are Synonyms of the Word Atonement?

Atonement has a strong religious connotation. Sometimes, you might be looking for a word that does not have a religious connotation; for this, you can use one of the below synonyms of atonement from Power Thesaurus

Synonyms can also be helpful if you’re trying to avoid repeating the same word multiple times or if you’re simply looking to grow your vocabulary:

  • act of contrition
  • amends
  • apology
  • appeasement
  • compensation
  • confession
  • consideration
  • damages
  • expiation
  • indemnification
  • indemnity
  • lex talionis
  • making good
  • measure for measure
  • offsetting
  • onement
  • payment
  • penalty
  • penance
  • penances
  • penitence
  • propitiation
  • purification
  • quittance
  • ransom
  • recompense
  • rectification
  • redemption
  • redress
  • refund
  • reimbursement
  • remuneration
  • reparation
  • reparations
  • repayment
  • repentance
  • reprisal
  • requital
  • restitution
  • retribution
  • return
  • reward
  • satisfaction
  • self-mortification
  • self-punishment
  • shrift
  • squaring things
  • unity

What Are Antonyms for the Word Atonement?

If you are trying to refer to something that is the opposite of atonement, this list of antonyms for atonement from Power Thesaurus has got you covered. You can reference this list if you are searching for the right word for lack of atonement, repentance, or guilt for wrongdoing:

  • anguish
  • assurance
  • audacity
  • bitter disappointment
  • boldness
  • brashness
  • brass
  • brazenness
  • confidence
  • daring
  • default
  • defiance
  • discontent
  • discontentment
  • disenchantment
  • disrespect
  • dissatisfaction
  • effrontery
  • forwardness
  • grave disappointment
  • hardheartedness
  • huge disappointment
  • hurt
  • impairment
  • impudence
  • provocation
  • punish
  • receive
  • sauciness
  • vexation


Overall, the word atonement means apology or reparation. This word is used in Christianity to refer to the death of Christ and His payment for the sins of the people, as well as in Judaism in reference to the day of atonement known as Yom Kippur.


  1. Atonement synonyms – 452 Words and Phrases for Atonement | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Atonement antonyms – 34 Opposites of Atonement | Power Thesaurus 
  3. What Is Atonement? Biblical Meaning and Definition | Christianity 
  4. atonement | Definition, Christianity, Judaism, & Facts | Britannica 
  5. Atonement definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary