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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Increasingly irascible and fading fast, Leonard insists that Emma be present throughout, as if confessing the falsehoods and failings of his life to her is the most important part of the exercise. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 May 2024 Loeb slain in Stateville James Day, a Chicagoan who was serving a prison term of up to 10 years for grand larceny, confessed to slashing Loeb 56 times with a razor in a shower room at the prison in Joliet. Marianne Mather, Chicago Tribune, 16 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for confess 

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 29 May. 2024.

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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