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n. pl. san·be·ni·tos
A garment of sackcloth worn at an auto-da-fé of the Spanish Inquisition by condemned heretics, being yellow with red crosses for the penitent and black with painted flames and devils for the impenitent.

[Spanish sambenito, after San Benito, Saint Benedict of Nursia (from its similarity to the scapular supposedly introduced by him).]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


n, pl -tos
1. (Clothing & Fashion) a yellow garment bearing a red cross, worn by penitent heretics in the Inquisition
2. (Clothing & Fashion) a black garment bearing flames and devils, worn by impenitent heretics at an auto-da-fé
[C16: from Spanish San Benito Saint Benedict, an ironical allusion to its likeness to the Benedictine scapular]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˌsæn bəˈni toʊ)

n., pl. -tos. (under the Spanish Inquisition)
1. a yellow garment worn by a penitent heretic.
2. a black garment worn by an impenitent heretic at an auto-da-fé.
[1550–60; < Sp, after San Benito Saint Benedict]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
New converts were considered impure as they harbored heretical tendencies; those who had been castigated with sanbenitos by the Inquisition were already "tainted." The Holy Inquisition's investigative processes could take months, if not years with the applicant paying for all the expenses.
Los castigos por proposiciones de este tipo eran generalmente menores (verguenzas, sanbenitos o azotes publicos), dependiendo no tanto de su contenido como de la nacionalidad y el origen etnico o religioso de los acusados, en su mayoria, sin embargo, cristianos viejos (Schwartz 22-24).
First, the notorious Tizon de la Nobleza (Stain on the Nobility), written in 1560 by the Bishop of Burgos, who was trying to prove that the nobility of Spain was tainted by Jewish and Moorish ancestry, mentions the Bernuys under the heading "Sanbenitos." The contemporary Bernuy was Diego de Bernuy Orense, whom the bishop refers to as "Diego de Bernuy, the one from Burgos.
A "sanbenito" was a penitential gown worn by persons convicted by the Inquisition and then displayed, with the offender's name, permanently in the church.