Definition of conscience in English:



  • A person's moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as acting as a guide to one's behaviour:

    ‘he had a guilty conscience about his desires’
    [mass noun] ‘Ben was suffering a pang of conscience’
    • ‘The common people, whose consciences are still alert, are the wheat.’
    • ‘Let the people vote for the president and vice president of their choice, in accordance with their consciences.’
    • ‘He could touch if he wanted to, and he did want to, so badly, but his conscience knew it was wrong.’
    • ‘Instead, they only serve to ease the consciences of the well-to-do while keeping the poor out of sight.’
    • ‘Does God create human beings with a conscience and moral reasoning powers and then leave them alone?’
    • ‘After all, you have to leave an escape route for people's consciences.’
    • ‘And they got the status of individuals but they don't have moral consciences like we do.’
    • ‘Maybe these little selves are the voices on our shoulders, like our consciences or our morals.’
    • ‘I have come to realise that he was born entirely without a conscience or a sense of remorse.’
    • ‘Maybe that may persuade them to examine their consciences.’
    • ‘Individuals will be far more free to vote their consciences without fearing economic harm.’
    • ‘There were people who had obviously suppressed their consciences for the rest of their lives after their actions.’
    • ‘I think therefore that we in the media have to examine our consciences and say we have a responsibility here beyond informing the public.’
    • ‘Our consciences and sensitivities have been deadened by too much drinking, he says.’
    • ‘I hope the burglar will have a conscience and return these tapes, which are of no value to anybody else.’
    • ‘Perhaps that is the only way the developed world can react - by digging into pockets and allowing consciences to be troubled.’
    • ‘Sweden is often held up as being a model of a democratic European country with a moral conscience.’
    • ‘What the townspeople really suffer from are diseased consciences brought on by severe greed.’
    • ‘The whole legal system would collapse if even just a few lawyers begin to let their own moral consciences influence their work.’
    • ‘Complex moral issues are better left to the consciences of elected members of parliament.’
    sense of right and wrong, sense of right, moral sense, still small voice, inner voice, voice within
    morals, standards, values, principles, ethics, creed, beliefs
    compunction, scruples, qualms
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  • in (all) conscience

    • Given the fact that this is probably wrong; in fairness:

      ‘how can we in all conscience justify the charging of fees for such a service?’
      • ‘It is very well to say that the respondent ought not in conscience to retain this money and that that consideration is enough to found an action for money had and received.’
      • ‘But in all conscience, as environment secretary, I can't recommend commercialisation.’
      • ‘How could the council, in all conscience, have made an application to cull knowing that the only method previously tried to control the geese was asking people in the park not to feed them?’
      • ‘Journalists, more than anybody else, should know how terrifying these war crimes are, and I think we should, in all conscience, do what we can to create a global justice system which deters them from being committed.’
      • ‘We also need to provide means whereby those who, in conscience, cannot accept their ministry, can continue to worship and serve God and his mission within the Church of England's fellowship.’
      • ‘And where, in all conscience, should they move on to?’
      • ‘I also wish to thank those Honourable members who in all conscience could not find it in their hearts to vote against the motion.’
      • ‘Britain's fishing ministers should, in all conscience, have accepted the total closure of the North Sea for the protection of threatened fish stocks.’
      • ‘How, in all conscience, can the well-fed of the world, by turning what should be a choice into a global dictate, opt out of the new technologies that could provide the opportunity for all the world's people to be well-fed?’
      • ‘In the end I could not in conscience take another appointment.’
      properly, in fairness, correctly, legally, technically, in conscience, in all conscience
      View synonyms
  • on one's conscience

    • Weighing heavily and guiltily on one's mind:

      ‘an act of providence had prevented him from having a death on his conscience’
      • ‘I like to imagine that nearly killing a four year old by your recklessness and stupidity would weigh on your conscience.’
      • ‘And how would you feel to have their deaths on your conscience?’
      • ‘I hope the blood of those killed will weigh on his conscience and keep him awake at night; he is the one man who will have blood on his hands.’
      • ‘He has a baby's death on his conscience for the rest of his days.’
      • ‘If he did, he's got enough to weigh on his conscience for another quarter of a century.’
      • ‘But you immediately chose Hell as the one to which yours belongs, so I'm inclined to conclude, sir, that something must weigh very heavily on your conscience.’
      • ‘The consequences of her actions weighed heavily on her conscience, but she refused to feel guilty.’
      • ‘If you did not accomplish something that could be seen as successful by others, then the sacrifices made by your family would be considered meaningless and it would reside on your conscience.’
      • ‘This conviction sat heavily on her conscience.’
      • ‘The matter weighed on his conscience heavily, but he knew no other way of dealing with it.’


Middle English (also in the sense ‘inner thoughts or knowledge’): via Old French from Latin conscientia, from conscient- being privy to, from the verb conscire, from con- with + scire know.