con·​science | \ ˈkän(t)-shən(t)s How to pronounce conscience (audio) \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from conscience

conscienceless \ ˈkän(t)-​shən(t)s-​ləs How to pronounce conscienceless (audio) \ 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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The decision implies a crisis of conscience, the foundation’s simmering ambivalence about the optics of throwing a virtual party for an industry that’s taken a cruel thrashing from the coronavirus. Washington Post, "As the restaurant industry suffers, the James Beard Foundation scraps its prestigious awards until 2022," 8 Sep. 2020 Every person of conscience can understand the rawness of the trauma people of color experience in this country, from the daily indignities to the extreme violence, like the horrific killing of George Floyd. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Biden’s timeline in violence," 1 Sep. 2020 The devastating killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, among too many others, have stirred a national crisis of conscience as to the work still to be done for justice and equality for all. Paget Alves, Fortune, "3 ways to make sure corporate diversity and inclusion efforts have a lasting impact," 31 Aug. 2020 Salter McNeil is one of a growing number of leaders in both evangelical and mainstream churches for whom Black Lives Matter has prompted a crisis of moral conscience. Eliza Griswold, The New Yorker, "How Black Lives Matter Is Changing the Church," 30 Aug. 2020 Future biographers will presumably cover the lows and highs of his career as an electoral politician, assessing in detail the validity of his title as the conscience of the Congress. Washington Post, "Praising the life of John Lewis, and skipping the complexities," 28 Aug. 2020 Activists like Greta Thunberg, a voice of conscience on the climate crisis. Vogue, "Melinda Gates on Hope," 26 Aug. 2020 This November 3, Americans should do what an earlier, better version of Ted Cruz told them to do in 2016 and vote their conscience. Isaac Schorr, National Review, "You Don’t Owe Your Vote to Anyone," 24 Aug. 2020 For four decades, Biden portrayed his support of the Hyde amendment as a fundamental matter of conscience, only to abandon it under pressure from Democratic activists in June 2019. John Mccormack, National Review, "Three Reasons the Democratic Convention Downplayed Abortion," 22 Aug. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about conscience

Time Traveler for conscience

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for conscience

Last Updated

19 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Conscience.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for conscience


How to pronounce conscience (audio)

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 How to pronounce conscience (audio) \

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 How to pronounce conscience (audio) \

Medical Definition of conscience

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

Keep scrolling for more



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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on conscience

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three bears two of them look like theyre whispering to a third bear who looks chuffed to be the center of attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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