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

Essential Meaning of conscience

1 : the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong The issue is a matter of (individual) conscience. [=something that people must decide about according to what they believe is morally right] I can't work for a company that has no social conscience. [=a company that does not care about important social issues]
2 : a feeling that something you have done is morally wrong She felt a pang/prick of conscience [=guilt] about not inviting him. The thief must have had an attack of conscience, because he returned the wallet with nothing missing from it.

Full 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.

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Other Words from conscience

conscienceless \ ˈkän(t)-​shən(t)s-​ləs How to pronounce conscience (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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Grisham isn't the first former Trump staffer to profit from her role in a destructive presidency with a publishing deal and spontaneously sprout a conscience once the book drops. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, 5 Oct. 2021 Drax schemes to steal an emerald ring from the ship’s new surgeon, Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell), who has returned from colonial India with a laudanum addiction and a guilty conscience. Bathsheba Demuth, The Atlantic, 22 Sep. 2021 Seeking to continue to create amazing travel experiences with a clear conscience, Niarra recently begun crafting eco-friendly adventures for sophisticated travelers. Sherrie Nachman, Forbes, 20 Sep. 2021 So many warnings — from just about everyone with expertise or a conscience — have gone unheeded to bring us to this point., 22 July 2021 The awakening of human conscience predicted by Gadhafi didn’t last. Calvin Woodward, Ellen Knickmeyer And David Rising, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Sep. 2021 The awakening of human conscience predicted by Gadhafi didn't last. Arkansas Online, 10 Sep. 2021 There are people of moral conscience in this county. David Fleshler,, 13 Aug. 2021 But the embarrassing, shameful display once again put the franchise in what is becoming a familiar role — that of social conscience for our state. Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 June 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for conscience

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

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Dictionary Entries Near conscience



conscience clause

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Conscience.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for conscience


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



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


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