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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from confess

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

Synonyms for confess


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Distraught and agitated, the young man had come to confess himself an urning, a word used in Germany to refer to homosexual men. Brandy Schillace, Scientific American, "The Forgotten History of the World's First Trans Clinic," 10 May 2021 There’s a good reason to confess your financial situation. Washington Post, "If you owe the IRS and can’t pay, this is what you should and shouldn’t do," 4 May 2021 And now your author will confess that this has also been self-help disguised as reporting, as my inability to handle spiciness has carried a significant social cost., "Can’t take the heat? A taste for spicy foods can be learned.," 27 Mar. 2021 Bell and Johnson claim they were forced to confess after hours-long interrogations, and later recanted. CBS News, "Three men who claim innocence spent 24 years behind bars. Now, freedom feels "surreal"," 10 Mar. 2021 When investors clamored to withdraw their money during the crash of 2008, Madoff had to confess that the money wasn’t there. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: What’s stopping the next Bernie Madoff?," 14 Apr. 2021 John Donvan, a former reporter for ABC News who covered the Gainesville cases, said Lewis claimed Rolling told him many of the details of the murders and that Rolling wanted to confess. Glenn Ruppel, ABC News, "How a woman in Louisiana helped break the case of 5 student murders in Florida," 8 Apr. 2021 During their discussion, Leonard starts to confess to past sins: a wife and child abandoned, infidelity, lies. The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 15 Mar. 2021 But the bell rings, my knee bends, and my lips, despite everything, confess that the crucified man is My Lord and My God. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Good Friday for Backsliders," 2 Apr. 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.

See More

First Known Use of confess

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

History and Etymology for confess

Middle English, from Anglo-French confesser, from confés having confessed, from Latin confessus, past participle of confitēri to confess, from com- + fatēri to confess; akin to Latin fari to speak — more at ban

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about confess

Time Traveler for confess

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for confess

Last Updated

14 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Confess.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on confess

What made you want to look up confess? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Used by Nabokov Quiz

  • image1676440788
  • Choose the best definition or synonym for the word in bold: "There are some eructations that sound like cheers—at least, mine did." Lolita
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!