Where does the word “remorse” come from and What does remorse mean?

Our own language once contained an exact synonym of the word “remorse”, ayenbite, “again bite.”

There was a fourteenth-century English book under the title, Ayenbite of Invwit, literally, “Again-bite of Inner Wit,” but which we would understand better if translated, “Remorse of Conscience.”

Remorse came to us, through French, from the Latin remordeo, and its literal meaning was exactly that of Old English ayenbite, “to bite again.”

Its use, however, was generally figurative, expressive of the inner bitings of one’s mind, just as we use it now.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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