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

Example Sentences

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
An arrest does not constitute a finding of guilt: Jermaine Terrell Mitchell, 36, of the 1900 block of Ogle Drive, Aurora, was arrested on a warrant at 9:42 a.m. Feb 27 at the police station, 1350 Aurora Ave. Steve Metsch, Chicago Tribune, 3 Mar. 2023 The fear and the confusion that Ellie felt, and the survivor’s guilt. Katcy Stephan, Variety, 26 Feb. 2023 My suspicion is survivor’s guilt might be a bit like that. Tanya Lewis, Scientific American, 17 Feb. 2023 Zeneta Everhart, whose son Zaire Goodman was shot and injured, said her son has survivor’s guilt. Mark Morales, CNN, 15 Feb. 2023 He's grappled with exhaustion and survivor’s guilt. Grace Hauck, USA TODAY, 12 Feb. 2023 Many involved with the mission—including many still working at NASA—to this day struggle with post-traumatic stress and survivor's guilt. Lee Hutchinson, Ars Technica, 1 Feb. 2023 Survivor's guilt, some would say, but a broken heart was the doing of her death. Jack Irvin, Peoplemag, 1 Feb. 2023 Survivor’s guilt some would say, but a broken heart was the doing of her death. Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 22 Jan. 2023
Increasingly, new checkout systems and apps guilt a default tip in situations where tips are either irrelevant or (again) in lieu of paying workers fairly. San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Feb. 2023 But then Tori tries to use her and Jordan's history as a bargaining chip to guilt Jordan into helping her game by not targeting Fessy, and things just get super messy. Sydney Bucksbaum,, 29 Dec. 2022 The image of a motherly nurse is used not only to discredit nurses’ expertise but also to guilt them into doing care work under dangerous conditions. Aparna Gopalan, The New Republic, 6 Jan. 2022 Most songs quietly guilt a cheater; this one rips the balls off. Joe Lynch, Billboard, 29 Dec. 2021 Demi called it performative and an attempt to guilt her way into a rose, but the unverified tactic was unsuccessful. Haley Kluge, Variety, 23 Aug. 2021 One article from August 1721 tried to guilt readers into resisting inoculation. Christian Chauret, The Conversation, 1 July 2021 However, some of us guilt ourselves into believing that our community will not function without our constant presence and involvement. Essence, 28 June 2021 But could this be perceived as imposing my hippie-dippy ideals on them, or trying to guilt them into recycling? Washington Post, 2 Dec. 2020 See More

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.

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 26 Mar. 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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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