con·​science ˈkän(t)-shən(t)s How to pronounce conscience (audio)
: 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.
: a faculty, power, or principle enjoining good acts
guided by conscience
: the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego
: conformity to what one considers to be correct, right, or morally good : conscientiousness
: sensitive regard for fairness or justice : scruple
a wealthy man with no conscience
archaic : consciousness
conscienceless adjective
in all conscience or in conscience
: 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
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.
Recent Examples on the Web In Forbes’ view, the social conscience Munger expresses is part and parcel of his investment success, as is Buffett's. Matt Schifrin, Forbes, 29 Nov. 2023 The sedatives are added to reinforce this idea, while the sound of the night comes to tear through the unconscious conscience. Valeria Verbaro, The Hollywood Reporter, 20 Nov. 2023 Please copy, save, share, and repost this information with other like-minded people and even with gun owners of good conscience who recognize the need for rational controls. Amanda Morris, Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2023 At any rate, the newspaper was awfully thin, as are most American periodicals nowadays, with its thinness spent largely on indoor pronouncements; hence any outdoor death might go unreported, thereby preserving me from knowing about it—bad for my essay but relaxing for my conscience. William T. Vollmann, Harper's Magazine, 16 Oct. 2023 There were versions where the audience actually saw people leaping off buildings and turning into spaghetti, or where Rick was the one who had the crisis of conscience, or where Morty became a spaghetti dealer in the vein of Walter White. Alison Herman, Variety, 5 Nov. 2023 We will be called every derogatory name imaginable, for having the temerity to vote our conscience, and desire our preferred candidate to have a shred of integrity and decency. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 2 Nov. 2023 In avoiding the conflicts of the era, Payne also deflects conflicts of today: his blandly apolitical view of the early seventies seems almost designed not to trouble consciences or spark debates. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 31 Oct. 2023 For many of us, staying informed is an obligation, a matter of conscience, of good citizenship. Liza Featherstone, The New Republic, 18 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'conscience.' 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, 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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near conscience

Cite this Entry

“Conscience.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


con·​science ˈkän-chən(t)s How to pronounce conscience (audio)
: knowledge of right and wrong and a feeling one should do what is right

Medical Definition


con·​science ˈkän-chən(t)s How to pronounce conscience (audio)
: the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego

Legal Definition


: exempting persons whose religious beliefs forbid compliance
conscience laws, which allow physicians…to refuse to participate in abortionsW. J. Curran
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