penance (n.) [←] late 13c., "religious discipline or self-mortification as a token of repentance and as atonement for some sin," from Anglo-French penaunce, Old French peneance (12c.), from Latin pænitentia (see penitence). Transferred sense is recorded from c. 1300.

penitence (n.) [←] c. 1200, from Old French penitence (11c.)
and directly from Latin paenitentia "repentance," noun of condition
from paenitentum (nominative paenitens) "penitent,"

In modern English, 'penance' differs from 'penitence'.
However, modern French lacks a cognate of the English 'penance'.
Instead, 'penance' seems to be translated as « pénitence » (nf).
Per contra, per the bold above, Old French did contain a cognate of the English 'penance'.

So how did the same Latin etymon paenitentia evolve into all this complexity?
Please expose and explain all hidden, missing semantic drifts and links.

I'm unversed in Latin, but I noticed that Etymonline above spells paenitentia differently: first with the ash grapheme, then 'ae' separately. Please advise.

  • My guess is this is a split of the word between popular and expert usage, peneance would be the popular term used by everybody while penitence would be restricted to theological usage.
    – Eleshar
    Jan 8 '17 at 16:54

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