[kon-shuh ns]
See more synonyms for conscience on
  1. the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action: to follow the dictates of conscience.
  2. the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.
  3. an inhibiting sense of what is prudent: I'd eat another piece of pie but my conscience would bother me.
  4. conscientiousness.
  5. Obsolete. consciousness; self-knowledge.
  6. Obsolete. strict and reverential observance.
  1. have something on one's conscience, to feel guilty about something, as an act that one considers wrong: She behaves as if she had something on her conscience.
  2. in all conscience,
    1. in all reason and fairness.
    2. certainly; assuredly.
    Also in conscience.

Origin of conscience

1175–1225; Middle English < Anglo-French < Latin conscientia knowledge, awareness, conscience. See con-, science
Related formscon·science·less, adjectivecon·science·less·ly, adverbcon·science·less·ness, nounsub·con·science, noun
Can be confusedconscience conscious Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for conscience

shame, duty, compunction, morals, censor, demur, superego, principles, scruples

Examples from the Web for conscience

Contemporary Examples of conscience

Historical Examples of conscience

  • Here stands its Government, aware of its might but obedient to its conscience.

  • But as Mr. Gladstone was then, so he has been all his life—the very Quixote of conscience.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • The distinctive principle of the book was that the State had a conscience.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • In our own single manhood to be bold, Fortressed in conscience and impregnable.'

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • Your conscience must tell you that I have the right to do so.


    William J. Locke

British Dictionary definitions for conscience


    1. the sense of right and wrong that governs a person's thoughts and actions
    2. regulation of one's actions in conformity to this sense
    3. a supposed universal faculty of moral insight
  1. conscientiousness; diligence
  2. a feeling of guilt or anxietyhe has a conscience about his unkind action
  3. obsolete consciousness
  4. in conscience or in all conscience
    1. with regard to truth and justice
    2. certainly
  5. on one's conscience causing feelings of guilt or remorse
Derived Formsconscienceless, adjective

Word Origin for conscience

C13: from Old French, from Latin conscientia knowledge, consciousness, from conscīre to know; see conscious
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for conscience

early 13c., from Old French conscience "conscience, innermost thoughts, desires, intentions; feelings" (12c.), from Latin conscientia "knowledge within oneself, sense of right, a moral sense," from conscientem (nominative consciens), present participle of conscire "be (mutually) aware," from com- "with," or "thoroughly" (see com-) + scire "to know" (see science).

Probably a loan-translation of Greek syneidesis, literally "with-knowledge." Sometimes nativized in Old English/Middle English as inwit. Russian also uses a loan-translation, so-vest, "conscience," literally "with-knowledge."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

conscience in Medicine


  1. The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one's conduct together with the urge to prefer right over wrong.
  2. The part of the superego that judges the ethical nature of one's actions and thoughts and then transmits such determinations to the ego for consideration.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with conscience


see have a clear conscience; in conscience.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.