Word of the Day


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to show that you are sorry for doing something bad or wrong

Origin of the word

The word atone comes from the combination of Middle English words ‘at’ and ‘on’, a variation of the word ‘one’, meaning ‘harmonious’. In Middle English, the word atone was used to mean ‘to reconcile or restore harmony between two people’. The first recorded use of the word atone was in 1574.


Atone means to try to make up for bad behaviour. It’s more than just saying you’re sorry for hurting someone; to atone means to take action to help right a wrong.

A written apology is a good way to atone for something you’ve done wrong, but many people aren’t sure when or how to write a proper apology. Elizabeth Sampat, a digital game designer and social activist, may have the answer. Sampat has launched a free web-based tool called “Am I Part of the Problem?” designed to help users atone for things they’ve done or said that may have had a negative impact on someone else.

Sampat’s interactive site leads users through a series of questions that can help them identify bad actions, examine the intent behind those actions and think through how those actions may have harmed someone else. In developing the site, Sampat drew on a variety of professional psychology resources, though she’s quick to point out she is not an expert.

In addition to helping users determine if and how they should draft a written apology to atone for a transgression, Sampat’s tool also provides links to outside resources that can help users who think they may have a more serious problem like depression.


“The only way to atone for being occasionally a little over-dressed is by being always absolutely over-educated.”
(Oscar Wilde)


apologize, make amends
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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