[ kon-shuhns ]
See synonyms for: conscienceconscienceless 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.

  1. an inhibiting sense of what is prudent: I'd eat another piece of pie but my conscience would bother me.

  2. Obsolete. consciousness; self-knowledge.

  3. Obsolete. strict and reverential observance.

Idioms about conscience

  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, : Also in conscience.

Origin of conscience

1175–1225; Middle English <Anglo-French <Latin conscientia knowledge, awareness, conscience. See con-, science

Other words from conscience

  • con·science·less, adjective
  • con·science·less·ly, adverb
  • con·science·less·ness, noun
  • sub·con·science, noun

Words that may be confused with conscience Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use conscience in a sentence

  • In reference to this, as well as to any other matter inculcated upon them, their consciences will either approve or condemn them.

  • It was a device by which thousands have tried to salve their consciences, and to try to find an excuse for wrong-doing.

    The Everlasting Arms | Joseph Hocking
  • The shopkeeper and his wife, drawn two ways by pity and self-interest, began by lulling their consciences with words.

    An Episode Under the Terror | Honore de Balzac
  • Their consciences told them both that either wished to conceal from the other his wickedness and forgetfulness of God.

    Eric, or Little by Little | Frederic W. Farrar
  • Then their consciences were moved, and they saw a punishment for their crime in selling Joseph fifteen years before.

British Dictionary definitions for conscience


/ (ˈkɒnʃəns) /

    • the sense of right and wrong that governs a person's thoughts and actions

    • regulation of one's actions in conformity to this sense

    • a supposed universal faculty of moral insight

  1. conscientiousness; diligence

  1. a feeling of guilt or anxiety: he has a conscience about his unkind action

  2. obsolete consciousness

  3. in conscience or in all conscience

    • with regard to truth and justice

    • certainly

  4. on one's conscience causing feelings of guilt or remorse

Origin of conscience

C13: from Old French, from Latin conscientia knowledge, consciousness, from conscīre to know; see conscious

Derived forms of conscience

  • conscienceless, adjective

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

Other 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.