con·​science | \ˈkän(t)-shən(t)s \

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 conscience

c : the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego

2 : conformity to what one considers to be correct, right, or morally good : conscientiousness

3 : sensitive regard for fairness or justice : scruple a wealthy man with no conscience

4 archaic : consciousness

in all conscience or in conscience

: in all fairness She could not in all conscience remain silent.

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Other Words from conscience

conscienceless \ˈkän(t)-​shən(t)s-​ləs \ adjective

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 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 rat had no morals, no conscience, no scruples, no consideration, no decency … — E. B. White, Charlotte's Web, 1952 The thief must have had an attack of conscience, because he returned the wallet with nothing missing from it.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Such cases—usually a result of mistaken identity—momentarily jolt society’s conscience. Samantha Pearson, WSJ, "In Latin America, Awash in Crime, Citizens Impose Their Own Brutal Justice," 6 Dec. 2018 Previously, conscience complaints from health care providers were reviewed alongside other discrimination complaints by the Civil Rights Division. Emmarie Huetteman, USA TODAY, "Critics say conservative Trump Health and Human Services appointee is trampling over patients' civil rights," 5 Mar. 2018 The Trump administration is pledging to aggressively enforce these conscience laws. David French, National Review, "What the New York Times Gets Wrong about Conscience," 31 Jan. 2018 The husband cannot in good conscience bring a new child into being when the earth is headed toward climatic disaster and political strife. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "Obama’s Legacy Has Already Been Destroyed," 18 May 2018 Instead, Murkowski and Collins are expected to vote their conscience, because women are supposed to care. Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, "Everyone expects Murkowski and Collins to do the right thing. That lets Republican men off the hook.," 3 Oct. 2018 If you are surprised by a gift and have nothing to give in return, an expression of gratitude and a handwritten note will do your guilty conscience, and your budget, good. 7. Carmen Wong Ulrich, Good Housekeeping, "Spend Less, Give More," 15 Nov. 2011 This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief. Fox News, "Scaramucci on Trump's Supreme Court pick, WH staff rumors," 30 June 2018 The suppression only serves to show how worried the top brass is about this movement’s purely peaceful struggle and its appeal to conscience. The Christian Science Monitor, "A nonviolent movement challenges Pakistan’s military," 22 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of conscience

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for conscience

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin conscientia, from conscient-, consciens, present participle of conscire to be conscious, be conscious of guilt, from com- + scire to know — more at science

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Last Updated

17 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for conscience

The first known use of conscience was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for conscience



English Language Learners Definition of conscience

: 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


con·​science | \ˈkän-shəns \

Kids Definition of conscience

: a sense of right and wrong and a feeling that what is right should be done Her conscience told her to tell the truth.


con·​science | \ˈkän-chən(t)s \

Medical Definition of conscience 

: the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on conscience

Spanish Central: Translation of conscience

Nglish: Translation of conscience for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of conscience for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about conscience

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