Can anybody explain the difference in meaning between 'expiation' and 'atonement'? Thanks.

closed as off-topic by ermanen, user66974, Edwin Ashworth, Robusto, ScotM Apr 27 '15 at 16:58

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  • Atonement, Expiation, Propitiation: spirithome.com/atonement.html – user66974 Apr 27 '15 at 14:02
  • I am aware of that website, but I honestly couldn't make much sense out of it. – Grazia Cerulli Apr 27 '15 at 14:16
  • @Josh61 Why that tag?? They are all bad questions. – curiousdannii Apr 27 '15 at 14:42
  • 2
    This would be better on Christianity, but, you'd have to specify whose definitions you want. – curiousdannii Apr 27 '15 at 14:43
  • @GraziaCerulli Surely you should consider in such cases the mother of all synonym dictionaries:-) books.google.com/… Do you see the page? – Marius Hancu Apr 27 '15 at 15:52

"Atonement" is to attain forgiveness for some sin or transgression, e.g. "I atoned for betraying my friend". It is something that you do.

"Expiation" means to clear away the record, to make it as if it never existed. It is not something you can do - you cannot expiate your own sins.

It is very similar to the difference between pardon and absolve - atonement is like being pardoned, expiation is like being absolved.

When a crime has been expiated, everyone pretends it didn't happen. When it has been atoned for, everyone says "yes he did that, but he made up for it so we forgive him".

  • This may be so according to the way the words are sometimes used , but according to Collins say, the words are synonyms: atonement n 1. satisfaction, reparation, or expiation given for an injury or wrong // We are looking for answers supported by authoritative references on ELU. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 27 '15 at 14:41
  • @EdwinAshworth My understanding was that the U in ELU stands for USAGE, so I just put the way it is usually used. Anyone can google a definition, so I assumed OP was looking for more than "dictionary says X". Btw, OED & google have different definitions; Maybe look at them as well? – Benubird Apr 28 '15 at 7:06
  • 'Usually used'? Dictionaries collect large samples of data and report on how terms are used across populations. Anyone can say how they feel the terms are usually used. They're saying they know better than the professionals analysing broad trends in English usage. // I can only access ODO (= 'Google'), not OED: atonement: 1The action of making amends for a wrong or injury; 1.1(In religious contexts) reparation or expiation for sin // expiation: The act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement – Edwin Ashworth Apr 28 '15 at 10:05
  • If you wish to use more precise definitions, you are of course free to do so. This is often done in legal, medical, religious, business, computing ... domains. But then it is only fair and sensible to define (narrow) your terms before you use them. ELU deals with general English; OP's question is framed in general terms (and in fact has been closed because of lack of focus / research). If an overview of more-or-less subject-specific usages is required, the relevant domain should be addressed (eg 'Christianity' as curiousdannii mentions. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 28 '15 at 10:13
  • He wisely adds: But you'd have to specify whose definitions you want. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 28 '15 at 10:13

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