In order to get the etymological origin of the penitent term, we will have to go to Latin and it is derived from "paenitens". This word in turn emanates from the verb "paenitere", which can be translated as "repent."
This word can be used as a noun or as an adjective, always linked to what is related to the penance .
It is essential to know, therefore, what is penance to understand the meaning of penitent. Penance is the compunction or the remorse that you feel after doing something bad or that, for some reason, you think it was not good to have done it. The concept is also used as a synonym for punishment and, on a religious level, it is the name the sacrament that offers the forgiveness of sins when they are confessed with pain and under certain conditions.
Penitent, then, is the adjective that names the subject that has a penance or that carries out the same. The penitent is the one who, after evaluating his conscience, regrets a behavior, confesses before a priest and receives a penance from him.
Penance, in this sense, allows sin satisfaction . It usually consists of an action that is suggested by the priest and that the penitent must specify to repair the fault committed. After telling the penitent what to do, the priest can acquit him.
In the same way, we cannot ignore the important use of the term penitent in Spain. And that is the name given to each of the people who, dressed in the capirote and the saya of their brotherhood or brotherhood, accompany the different images that procession through the streets of the cities in Holy Week.
The vast majority of these penitents, also known as Nazarenes or papones, are simply dressed in the aforementioned clothing and carry a candle or banner. However, there are others who, by a promise they have made, make the journey with bare feet or even dragging chains that are attached to their ankles.
In the same way we must not forget that, within Holy Week in any corner of Spain, differentiations are established as far as the penitents. Thus, there are the following groups:
-Penitents with a cross, which are those that, as their own name indicates, carry a penitential cross.
-Penitents with badges, who are in charge of carrying some of the wands or identifications of their brotherhood during the processional departure.
-Penitentes of row, that are those that realize the route next to the step carrying a candle or lit candle.
To all this it should be added that, however, in Andalusia the terms Nazarenes and penitents are used to name different types of cofrades, differing fundamentally by how they wear the capirote.
The penitents On the other hand, it is the name of a small town located in Mendoza , a province of the Argentinian republic . In said village a famous ski run of about three hundred hectares works.
In Spain finally the Penitents Route is the name that receives a crossing of motorcyclists who travel about eight hundred kilometers in the same day.