The adjective contrite ("expressing remorse") was first borrowed into English in the mid-fourteenth century to describe a "crushed" soul. Through Old French contrit, the word comes from Latin contritus, which meant "worn out" or "ground to pieces". More specifically, it's "to rub with", because it comes from the prefix con-, meaning "with" (from Proto-Indo-European kom, "beside" or also "with") and the verb terere, "to rub". Terere, which also makes up part of other wearing-out words like detriment, termite, and attrition, comes from Proto-Indo-European terh, meaning "twist". Contrite's sister word, trite, also comes from terere and got its meaning of "hackneyed" through the idea of an idea being worn out to the point of being unoriginal and boring.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.