adjective, guilt·i·er, guilt·i·est.
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OTHER WORDS FROM guilty
Words nearby guilty
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.
"We should wait for a court of law to decide/Innocent until proven guilty" is well and good when you're talking about potentially imprisoning someone. Not so much when it's a matter of deciding whether to provide a potential victim protection and emotional support.
— Lorenz Carst 🌼 🐍 💫 🏳️⚧️ (@SyeraMiktayee) February 26, 2020
Try using guilty!
Is guilty used correctly in the following sentence?
“He didn’t cause the accident, but he still feels guilty.”
Example sentences from the Web for guilty
He researched the charge in depth, challenged his ticket in court and was found not guilty.Those Ticketed for Seditious Language Say Their Only Crime Was Talking Back|Kate Nucci|September 9, 2020|Voice of San Diego
In March 2008, Chi Mak is found guilty and sentenced to 24 years in prison for conspiring to export military technology to China, among other crimes.A brief history of US-China espionage entanglements|Konstantin Kakaes|September 3, 2020|MIT Technology Review
All four, who face up to 20 years in prison on each of the two counts they face, have pleaded not guilty, and Bannon has called the charges a plot to stop border wall construction.New Engineering Report Finds Privately Built Border Wall Will Fail|by Jeremy Schwartz and Perla Trevizo|September 2, 2020|ProPublica
“People are more likely to feel guilty taking time off right now,” Bandurian said.
In less than half those cases, 22, people were found guilty of voting in two states.As states mull expanding vote by mail, they’re turning to Oregon for advice|Lee Clifford|August 24, 2020|Fortune
Slowly, slowly, dance classes may cease to be such secret and guilty pleasures in Iran.Iran’s Becoming a Footloose Nation as Dance Lessons Spread|IranWire|January 2, 2015|DAILY BEAST
They were found guilty of practicing habitual debauchery and inciting others to sexual deviance because of the footage.Sisi Is Persecuting, Prosecuting, and Publicly Shaming Egypt’s Gays|Bel Trew|December 30, 2014|DAILY BEAST
He did not plead guilty, and has regularly filed petitions in an effort to prove his innocence.Behind Bars for the Holidays: 11 Political Prisoners We Want to See Free In 2015|Movements.Org|December 25, 2014|DAILY BEAST
What he has said publicly is an apology for colonialism, something we are not guilty of in Cuba.
There is no requirement for a member of Congress to resign after pleading guilty to a felony.
All the miserable stratagems they had been guilty of to win him; the dishonest plotting and planning.Elster's Folly|Mrs. Henry Wood
He was guilty of the weakness of taking refuge in what is called, I believe, in legal phrase, a side-issue.Confidence|Henry James
Ned reached home about breakfast time, and "fetched up" at the back door, with a decidedly guilty countenance.
He felt rather guilty as he strolled beside this girl whose father had succeeded.The Homesteader|Oscar Micheaux
Never in her life had the vicar's wife been guilty of profanity till now, but the opportunity was too golden to be missed.The Pit Town Coronet, Volume I (of 3)|Charles James Wills