\ ˈgilt \

Definition of guilt

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty A jury will determine the defendant's guilt or innocence. broadly : guilty conduct
2a : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously His guilt was written in his face.
b : feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : self-reproach
3 : a feeling of deserving blame for offenses Wracked by guilt, he confessed his affairs.


guilted; guilting; guilts

Definition of guilt (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to cause (someone) to feel guilty Don't listen to Mommy. She's trying to guilt you.— Gary Shteyngart : to persuade (someone) to do something by causing feelings of guilt guilting her to eat her own green beans because "there are starving children in Africa."— Katie Boerema often followed by into A far stronger compulsion is created when people think they're being watched, as a mildly impressive 86 percent of people were guilted into washing their hands in one study.— Steve Lipsher

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of guilt in a Sentence


The jury determines the defendant's guilt or innocence. His guilt in the matter was indisputable. It was clear that the guilt lay with him. a strong sense of guilt She feels guilt over something that happened before she was born! our secret guilts and insecurities
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The products, despite being worth thousands of dollars, have not managed to neutralize my bodily functions or my laziness about cleaning or the lingering guilt of ghosting. Rebecca Jennings, Vox, "I used all the best stuff for a week and it nearly broke me," 12 Dec. 2018 The story is drenched in the guilt of the resisters, who had intended only to stop the brutalities of a vicious collaborator. Megan Koreman, WSJ, "Five Best: Megan Koreman on the Cost of Courage Under Nazism," 25 Oct. 2018 Obviously, cue the guilt about how Amma doesn’t need her anymore—make a lot of sense in light of the MBP diagnosis. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "The 10 Biggest Moments From 'Sharp Objects' Episode 7," 20 Aug. 2018 In the meantime, feel free to grab one of Bliss's iconic Jelly Glow Balls, guilt-free. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Bliss Announces Cruelty-Free Partnership With PETA," 23 July 2018 Red, White, and Blue Happy Hours: Not totally free (but then again, what is), these Independence Day dedicated happy hours cut down on the price — and the guilt — of indulging in your 5 p.m. cocktail. Claire Wolters,, "Where to find free food in Philly for July Fourth," 27 June 2018 There may even be implications for understanding eating disorders because food’s valence may be connected to the guilt experienced in conditions like anorexia. Simon Makin, Scientific American, "A Matter of Taste: Can a Sweet Tooth Be Switched Off in the Brain?," 30 May 2018 Evangelion goes long on the psychological states of these kids fending off the end of the world, and the guilt of the adults responsible for them. Joshua Rivera, GQ, "This Fucked Me Up: Neon Genesis Evangelion," 30 Apr. 2018 The disease is characterized by repeatedly eating a large amount of food in a short period of time, and feeling immense guilt or shame afterward. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "How to Cope With Binge Eating Disorder Over the Holidays," 17 Dec. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'guilt.' 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 guilt


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1971, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for guilt


Middle English, delinquency, guilt, from Old English gylt delinquency

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about guilt

Statistics for guilt

Last Updated

19 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for guilt

The first known use of guilt was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for guilt


\ ˈgilt \

Kids Definition of guilt

1 : responsibility for having done something wrong and especially something against the law He admitted his guilt.
2 : a feeling of shame or regret as a result of bad conduct

Other Words from guilt

guiltless \ -​ləs \ adjective


\ ˈgilt \

Medical Definition of guilt

: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : morbid self-reproach often manifest in marked preoccupation with the moral correctness of one's behavior aggressive responses originating in inner guilt and uncertainty



Legal Definition of guilt

: the fact of having committed an offense especially against the law not enough evidence to establish guilt — compare innocence

History and Etymology for guilt

Old English gylt delinquency

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on guilt

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with guilt

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for guilt

Spanish Central: Translation of guilt

Nglish: Translation of guilt for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on guilt

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


means, resources, or money

Get Word of the Day daily email!

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 ______.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!