Definition of conscience
1a : the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good She had a guilty conscience.b : a faculty, power, or principle enjoining good acts guided by consciencec : the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego
2 archaic : consciousness
3 : conformity to what one considers to be correct, right, or morally good : conscientiousness
4 : sensitive regard for fairness or justice : scruple a wealthy man with no conscience
consciencelessplay \ˈkän(t)-shən(t)s-ləs\ adjective
in all conscienceor
: in all fairness She could not in all conscience remain silent.
Examples of conscience in a Sentence
… it is a politician's natural instinct to avoid taking any stand that seems controversial unless and until the voters demand it or conscience absolutely requires it. —Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, 2006
We like to imagine literature as the still, small voice of human conscience. It is that only rarely, however. Actively and passively, it has always borne along pernicious ideas. —Marilynne Robinson, New York Times Book Review, 15 Mar. 1987
The rat had no morals, no conscience, no scruples, no consideration, no decency … —E. B. White, Charlotte's Web, 1952
So she had lied to him, but so had he to her, they were quits on that score and his conscience was calm. —Bernard Malamud, The Magic Barrel, (1950) 1958
The thief must have had an attack of conscience, because he returned the wallet with nothing missing from it.
Recent Examples of conscience from the Web
This is about America's security as well as its conscience.
Successful sites of conscience don't just tell histories of oppression and survival.
As part of the emotionally raw lyrics to his brand-new 13th album, 4:44, Hov lays bare his mistakes, regrets and guilty conscience over 10 songs.
The German news agency dpa reports that a parliamentary vote based on conscience would most likely lead to a majority deciding in favor of same-sex marriage.
Throughout the 20th century Chicago's photographic image of itself was created by amateurs and professionals alike and, often, by commercial filmmakers sparked by a social conscience.
Uber is enabling passengers to tip its U.S. drivers with a tap on its ride-hailing app for the first time, part of a push to recast itself as a company with a conscience and a heart.
In their final confrontation, Chuck told his younger brother that high-minded intentions and pangs of conscience don’t matter—
For the first time, Uber is allowing passengers to tip its U.S. drivers with a tap on its ride-hailing app, part of a push to recast itself as a company with a conscience and a heart.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'conscience'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Origin and Etymology of conscience
CONSCIENCE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of conscience for English Language Learners
: the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong
: a feeling that something you have done is morally wrong
CONSCIENCE Defined for Kids
Definition of conscience for Students
: a sense of right and wrong and a feeling that what is right should be done Her conscience told her to tell the truth.
Word Root of conscience
The Latin word scīre, meaning “to know” or “to understand,” gives us the root sci. Words from the Latin scīre have something to do with knowing or understanding. Science is the understanding of the world and how everything in it works. A person's conscience is the knowledge of right and wrong and the feeling that he or she should do right. Anything that is conscious knows what it is feeling.
Medical Definition of conscience
: the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego
Legal Definition of conscience
: exempting persons whose religious beliefs forbid compliance conscience laws, which allow physicians…to refuse to participate in abortions — W. J. Curran
Seen and Heard
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