[ self-kon-shuhs, self- ]
/ ˈsɛlfˈkɒn ʃəs, ˌsɛlf- /
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excessively aware of being observed by others.
conscious of oneself or one's own being.
Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of self-conscious

First recorded in 1670–80

OTHER WORDS FROM self-conscious

self-con·scious·ly, adverbself-con·scious·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does self-conscious mean?

Self-conscious means overly aware of and sensitive to attention from others, often to the point of feeling anxious or embarrassed.

In this sense, self-conscious is always used negatively. A person can be self-conscious in general, or about a particular aspect of themselves. Much less commonly, it is used to mean aware of one’s existence.

Example: She says she never wears short-sleeved shirts because she’s self-conscious about the way her arms look.

Where does self-conscious come from?

The first records of self-conscious come from the 1600s, but it didn’t begin to be used in its current sense until around the 1800s. Conscious comes from the Latin conscius, which means “sharing knowledge” and is based on the Latin scīre, “to know.” In general, conscious means “aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.” In self-conscious, though, it means something more like “sensitive to something”—that something being what others think about oneself.

If a person is self-conscious, they are likely also shy, easily embarrassed, and anxious. If a person is self-conscious in general, it usually means they are very sensitive to how other people perceive them, think about them, or judge them—they feel people’s eyes on them all the time. Some people might not be self-conscious in general, but about something specific. This could be an aspect of their appearance that they’re insecure about, such as their skin, their teeth, or their height. Or it could be something they feel uncomfortable doing in front of other people, such as performing in front of a crowd. People who are not otherwise self-conscious may sometimes feel that way around people who they’ve just met, especially if they’re trying to make a good impression. A lot of people agree that the best way to avoid feeling self-conscious is to be yourself and be comfortable with who you are—to be self-confident.

Self-conscious does not mean the same thing as selfaware, which refers to having an active awareness of your feelings and how you treat others.

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What are some other forms related to self-conscious?

  • self-consciously (adverb)
  • self-consciousness (noun)

What are some synonyms for self-conscious?

What are some words that share a root or word element with self-conscious


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

What are some words self-conscious may be commonly confused with?

How is self-conscious used in real life?

Feeling self-conscious is never pleasant, so the term is always used negatively. It can be used to describe a general feeling, or a specific insecurity about something.



Try using self-conscious!

Which of the following words is an antonym (opposite) of self-conscious?

A. timid
B. awkward
C. anxious
D. confident

How to use self-conscious in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for self-conscious


unduly aware of oneself as the object of the attention of others; embarrassed
conscious of one's existence

Derived forms of self-conscious

self-consciously, adverbself-consciousness, 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