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

Definition of confess

transitive verb

1 : to tell or make known (something, such as something wrong or damaging to oneself) : admit he confessed his guilt
2a : to acknowledge (sin) to God or to a priest
b : to receive the confession of (a penitent)
3 : to declare faith in or adherence to : profess
4 : to give evidence of Breeze, bird, and flower confess the hour …— Sir Walter Scott

intransitive verb

1a : to disclose one's faults specifically : to unburden one's sins or the state of one's conscience to God or to a priest
b : to hear a confession
2 : admit, own confess to a crime

Other Words from confess

confessable \ kən-​ˈfe-​sə-​bəl How to pronounce confess (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for confess


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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

Examples of confess in a Sentence

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Savelli said Stough admitted to working at the store, but did not confess to the crime. NBC News, 4 Nov. 2021 In the series finale, Gunther, known for his bleached locks, finally summoned the courage to confess his love to Rachel, who let him down warmly. New York Times, 24 Oct. 2021 Doctors called on those suffering from these kinds of illness to confess any sins that may have summoned the dead before treating them with spells to placate the ghosts. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Oct. 2021 So is Tartt’s bold decision to confess that love to Jones’ boyfriend, Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), the former star player turned coach. Marco Della Cava, USA TODAY, 8 Oct. 2021 But we're not finished, first, Wells wants Ivan to confess his sins to the group. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 29 Sep. 2021 All feature relatable protagonists, like the single father afraid to confess his feelings for his daughter’s Spanish tutor and the teenage boy who bonds with a pair of college students. Washington Post, 9 Sep. 2021 If that turned out not to suffice, Congress could always confess error and authorize more debt. WSJ, 30 Aug. 2021 Last week, Coleman Thomas Blevins logged on to an online forum to confess a menacing plan, police said: The 28-year-old from Kerrville, Tex., was going to storm into a Walmart and shoot up the place. Washington Post, 1 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'confess.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of confess

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

History and Etymology for confess

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

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

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Last Updated

10 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Confess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

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More Definitions for confess



English Language Learners Definition of confess

: to admit that you did something wrong or illegal
: to talk about or admit something that makes you embarrassed, ashamed, etc.
: to tell (your sins) to God or to a priest


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

Kids Definition of confess

1 : to tell of doing something wrong or illegal or of something embarrassing : admit confessed to the crime confessed being jealous
2 : to admit committing sins to God or to a priest


transitive verb
con·​fess | \ kən-ˈfes How to pronounce confess (audio) \

Legal Definition of confess

: 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

Other Words from confess

confessor \ kən-​ˈfe-​sər How to pronounce confess (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on confess

Nglish: Translation of confess for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of confess for Arabic Speakers


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