con·​fess kən-ˈfes How to pronounce confess (audio)
confessed; confessing; confesses

transitive verb

: to tell or make known (something, such as something wrong or damaging to oneself) : admit
he confessed his guilt
: to acknowledge (sin) to God or to a priest
: to receive the confession of (a penitent)
: to declare faith in or adherence to : profess
: to give evidence of
Breeze, bird, and flower confess the hour …Sir Walter Scott

intransitive verb

: to disclose one's faults
specifically : to unburden one's sins or the state of one's conscience to God or to a priest
: to hear a confession
: admit, own
confess to a crime
confessable adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for confess

acknowledge, admit, own, avow, confess mean to disclose against one's will or inclination.

acknowledge implies the disclosing of something that has been or might be concealed.

acknowledged an earlier peccadillo

admit implies reluctance to disclose, grant, or concede and refers usually to facts rather than their implications.

admitted the project was over budget

own implies acknowledging something in close relation to oneself.

must own I know little about computers

avow implies boldly declaring, often in the face of hostility, what one might be expected to be silent about.

avowed that he was a revolutionary

confess may apply to an admission of a weakness, failure, omission, or guilt.

confessed a weakness for sweets

Example Sentences

He confessed after being questioned for many hours. He willingly confessed his crime. I have to confess that I was afraid at first. I confessed my sins to the priest.
Recent Examples on the Web The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that Frank had confessed to his son before Houston forced him to step down in 2002. Jessica Sager, Peoplemag, 16 May 2023 The 12-time Grammy winner had also confessed to feeling emotional about the performance while onstage Sunday night. Hannah Dailey, Billboard, 16 May 2023 Morales confesses that his visit to Villasana wasn’t exactly happenstance, although the media influencer had never before been to his taco stand. Diane Bell, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 May 2023 Even the superrich crave a good deal, as a Manhattan woman with a treasure trove of superfake Birkins confessed to The Cut last year. Amy X. Wang Grant Cornett, New York Times, 4 May 2023 Executives at companies like Zoom have also confessed that layoffs resulted from over-hiring. Tim Sanders, Quartz, 20 Apr. 2023 The tweet was in reference to when Pennywell fell asleep on the show while her now-husband Brett Brown confessed his love for her. Haadiza Ogwude, The Enquirer, 17 Apr. 2023 Police suspected King was the anonymous source—the looter who confessed to torching a store. IEEE Spectrum, 15 Apr. 2023 Joffrey Baratheon, the Brat King, orders the death of Ned, even after Ned has decided to falsely confess to treason to save himself. Matthew Gilbert,, 13 Apr. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'confess.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English confessen "to admit, confess, (of a priest) hear a confession," borrowed from Anglo-French confesser (also continental Old French), derivative of confés "confessed, shriven," going back to Latin confessus, past participle of confiteor, confitērī "to admit (a fact, the truth of a statement or charge), reveal," from con- con- + fateor, fatērī "to accept as true, acknowledge, profess," probably a verbal derivative based on Indo-European *bhh2-to- "spoken" or *bhh2-t- "who speaks," from the verbal base *bheh2- "speak, say," whence also Latin for, fārī "to speak, say" — more at ban entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of confess was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near confess

Cite this Entry

“Confess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​fess kən-ˈfes How to pronounce confess (audio)
: to make known (as something wrong)
: to admit one's sins to God or to a priest
: to hear the confession of
the priest confessed the penitents

Legal Definition


transitive verb
con·​fess kən-ˈfes How to pronounce confess (audio)
: to admit (as a charge or allegation) as true, proven, or valid
unless you answer, the petition shall be taken as confessed

intransitive verb

: to make a confession
confessor noun

More from Merriam-Webster on confess

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