1 of 2


: 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
: the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously
His guilt was written in his face.
: feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : self-reproach
: a feeling of deserving blame for offenses
Wracked by guilt, he confessed his affairs.


2 of 2


guilted; guilting; guilts

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

Examples of guilt in a Sentence

Noun 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
The message here that kamikaze pilots who survived deserve to bear neither shame nor guilt will resonate strongly with modern audiences. Richard Kuipers, Variety, 22 Nov. 2023 My sense of obligation for Maggie was grave and tinged with guilt. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 20 Nov. 2023 If the numbers pointed to Nicholas' guilt, law enforcement says so did evidence found at his house near the time of his arrest in 2019. Natalie Morales, CBS News, 18 Nov. 2023 Here, the mayor is also the judge, appointing the prosecutor and, if drivers ask for a trial, deciding their guilt or innocence. Samantha Sunne, ProPublica, 16 Nov. 2023 The colonel, who considered Major Nicholson a friend as well as a colleague, carried the death with him the rest of his life — not out of guilt, but as a reminder of the terrible nature of the Cold War. Clay Risen, New York Times, 14 Nov. 2023 The waterworks came when Devin felt guilt for taking Nick across the world from his family. Kelly Wynne, Peoplemag, 13 Nov. 2023 The plaintiff claims to have suffered severe emotional, physical and psychological distress, including shame, guilt, economic loss of earning capacity, and emotional loss. Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Pitchfork, 9 Nov. 2023 What was missing from the first version of the story was not specific incidents or details—many of which are the same in both books—but rather Ernaux’s own feelings of guilt and despair. Maggie Doherty, The New Republic, 31 Oct. 2023
Don’t lecture, don’t explain, don’t guilt, don’t count to three and don’t give in. Meghan Leahy, Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2023 The suit also alleged that MacPherson would get Lewis expensive gifts such as luggage and Tiffany necklaces, and that MacPherson would guilt her into accepting them. Ethan Millman, Rolling Stone, 4 Oct. 2023 There are malware-like pop-ups in Windows 11 trying to guilt you into using Edge. Nathan Edwards, The Verge, 5 Sep. 2023 Wakanda Forever, Ruben Östlund's high-class social satire Triangle of Sadness feels the timeliest, with a self-skewering message of contemporary excess that might guilt Oscar voters into ticking it higher on their ballot rankings. Joey Nolfi,, 23 Dec. 2022 Jo also subtly guilts Lizzy into helping her nurse an injured bird, which Lizzy tried to quietly discard after her cat attacked it in her apartment the previous evening. Vikram Murthi, The New Republic, 12 Apr. 2023 His son, Jackson (John Owen Lowe), despite being the child of a nut who guilts him relentlessly (and who has just lost his mother), is extraordinarily normal, perhaps the most normal-seeming character who has ever inhabited a sitcom. John Anderson, WSJ, 30 Mar. 2023 Adversity, adaptation, guilt THE KOSIACHENKOS|FLOOR 17 Even on a morning when the lights are on, 3-year-old twins Illia and Kyrylo Kosiachenko still reach for their flashlights before heading off to school. Yutao Chen, Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2023 Know your worth, then double it, and don’t let potential collaborators or clients guilt you into charging even a penny less. Rolling Stone Culture Council, Rolling Stone, 23 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'guilt.' 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, delinquency, guilt, from Old English gylt delinquency

First Known Use


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


1971, in the meaning defined above

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

Cite this Entry

“Guilt.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: the fact of having done something wrong and especially something that is punishable by law
: the state of one who has done something wrong : blameworthiness
: a feeling of responsibility for wrongdoing

Medical Definition


: 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


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


Old English gylt delinquency

More from Merriam-Webster on guilt

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