Magdalen, the

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Magdalen, the St Mary Magdalen; also called the Magdalene. The name comes, in late Middle English, via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek (Maria hē) Magdalēnē ‘Mary of Magdala’ (to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection, as recounted in John 20:1–18).

She was commonly identified (probably wrongly) with the sinner of Luke 8:37, and was traditionally represented in hagiology as a reformed prostitute elevated to sanctity by repentance and faith; from this come the archaic uses of magdalen to mean a reformed prostitute and a house for reformed prostitutes.