late 13c., "papal indulgence," from Old French pardon, from pardoner "to grant; forgive" (11c., Modern French pardonner), "to grant, forgive," from Vulgar Latin *perdonare "to give wholeheartedly, to remit," from Latin per "through, thoroughly" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "through") + donare "give as a gift," from donum "gift," from PIE *donum "gift," from root *do- "to give."
Meaning "passing over an offense without punishment" is from c. 1300, also in the strictly ecclesiastical sense; sense of "pardon for a civil or criminal offense; release from penalty or obligation" is from late 14c. earlier in Anglo-French. Weaker sense of "excuse for a minor fault" is attested from 1540s.
mid-15c., "to forgive for offense or sin," from Old French pardoner (see pardon (n.)).
'I grant you pardon,' said Louis XV to Charolais, who, to divert himself, had just killed a man; 'but I also pardon whoever will kill you.' [Marquis de Sade, "Philosophy in the Bedroom"]
Related: Pardoned; pardoning. Pardon my French as exclamation of apology for obscene language is from 1895.
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