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.

Example Sentences

… 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 The answer, of course, is that terrible consequences were meted out to those who succumbed to pangs of conscience. Noah Rothman, National Review, 6 Mar. 2023 Outside the military, he was hailed as a person of conscience who fought his own employer to protect the powerless and prevent soldiers from disgracing themselves. C.j. Chivers, New York Times, 21 Feb. 2023 Mitt Romney — also a different kind of Republican — tweeted, Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 13 Jan. 2023 During each of these atrocities some people stood out from their neighbors by making a choice of conscience, often risking their lives to help the victims. Ned Temko, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 Jan. 2023 No one was feeling the slightest pang of conscience. Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, WSJ, 11 Jan. 2023 His great novels are dramas of dissent, of conscience, but without liberalism. Ben Lerner, The New York Review of Books, 29 Dec. 2022 But that also means that anyone who cannot in good conscience support a Will Smith film is justified. Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Dec. 2022 Greenblatt tweeted Thursday night that his organization could not in good conscience accept Irving's donation. Brian Mahoney, ajc, 4 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

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 20 Mar. 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
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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