[ gil-tee ]
/ ˈgɪl ti /
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See synonyms for: guilty / guiltiness on Thesaurus.com

adjective, guilt·i·er, guilt·i·est.
having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; justly subject to a certain accusation or penalty; culpable: The jury found her guilty of murder.
characterized by, connected with, or involving guilt: guilty intent.
having or showing a sense of guilt, whether real or imagined: a guilty conscience.


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Origin of guilty

before 1000; Middle English; Old English gyltig.See guilt, -y1


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does guilty mean?

If you’re guilty, it means you were responsible for doing something wrong, especially a crime. If you’re found guilty, it means a jury has officially decided that you committed a crime. If you feel guilty, it means you feel bad about something you shouldn’t have done or should have done but didn’t.

In a legal context, guilty is the opposite of innocent (not guilty). It is often used in an official sense, but not always.

Example: Once when I was a kid I shoplifted a stick of gum from the store and felt so guilty about it that I was crying by the time I got home.

Where does guilty come from?

Guilty is an old word. It is believed to have been in use since before the year 1000. It is based on the noun guilt, which ultimately comes from the Old English gylt, meaning “offense.” The suffix -y is used to turn the noun into an adjective.

If you’re guilty, it means you did it. In legal usage, labeling someone guilty usually indicates that it has been officially determined—without a doubt—that they have committed a crime. In the United States, a person suspected of a crime has the right to be “presumed innocent until proven guilty.” This means a jury should only find a person guilty if there is indisputable evidence—meaning absolute proof.

A person found guilty is sometimes called the guilty party (in which party refers to a person or group). This phrase is also used outside of the courtroom. In everyday contexts, guilty is often used in a less official and often less serious way to refer to someone who’s responsible for some offense, as in I’m definitely guilty of snacking too much. But it can be serious, as in You may not have committed a crime, but you’re guilty of ruining this company.

Guilty is also used to describe the feeling of guilt or regret. For example, a person may feel guilty for something they did (like breaking a vase and lying about it) or something they didn’t do (like missing their friend’s birthday party). Feeling guilty often happens when the truth is hidden, as in the case of the vase, and this idea is what’s implied in the phrase guilty conscience.

A less serious use of guilty is found in the phrase guilty pleasure, which is something that you enjoy but feel a little embarrassed or shameful about.

Did you know …?

What are some other forms related to guilty?

  • guilt (noun)
  • guiltier (adjective, comparative form)
  • guiltiest (adjective, superlative form)
  • guiltily (adverb)
  • guiltiness (noun)
  • overguilty (adjective)
  • quasi-guilty (adverb)

What are some synonyms for guilty?

What are some words that share a root or word element with guilty

What are some words that often get used in discussing guilty?

What are some words guilty may be commonly confused with?

How is guilty used in real life?

In a legal context, the word guilty shouldn’t be used lightly, since it implies a certainty of guilt. In normal conversation, guilty is often used in the context of lesser offenses or a feeling of regret.



Try using guilty!​

Is guilty used correctly in the following sentence?

“He didn’t cause the accident, but he still feels guilty.”

How to use guilty in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for guilty

/ (ˈɡɪltɪ) /

adjective guiltier or guiltiest
responsible for an offence or misdeed
law having committed an offence or adjudged to have done sothe accused was found guilty
plead guilty law (of a person charged with an offence) to admit responsibility; confess
of, showing, or characterized by guilta guilty smile; guilty pleasures

Derived forms of guilty

guiltily, adverbguiltiness, noun
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