Definition of counsel in English:



  • 1mass noun Advice, especially that given formally.

    ‘with wise counsel a couple can buy a home that will be appreciating in value’
    count noun ‘for the public, simple counsels of more patience are not enough’
    • ‘Sometimes it is better to seek counsel from a stranger.’
    • ‘It is crucial that facility executives seek counsel to address specific questions of liability.’
    • ‘In fact, this is only one of many wise counsels to the cautious buyer who fears being landed with a freshly minted or happily married antique.’
    • ‘It is a pity that he died at an age when he could have been a rich source of consultancy and counsel to the youthful leaders of this country.’
    • ‘Civilians hang on their every utterance, politicians seek their counsel, and party-givers stroke them.’
    • ‘He sought counsel on how to do improvisational comedy.’
    • ‘To the spiritually minded he was rich in wise counsels.’
    • ‘If you seek counsel of other kinds, I will be perfectly glad to help in any way that I can.’
    • ‘But common misconceptions about financial planners prevent many from seeking their counsel.’
    • ‘Did you seek counsel from other business leaders as to how to deal with the downturn?’
    • ‘I am sure that in the time he remains a member of this House he will, if you seek it, offer counsel.’
    • ‘They were sought for counsel as to the timing for a party's movement.’
    • ‘As for the European Union, the situation is really bad, though wiser counsels may prevail in the next week or so.’
    • ‘Forced to live a life on the run, he seeks counsel from an old mystic, who explains that his actions have spawned an immortal incarnation of Fate, known as the Dahaka.’
    • ‘For a small fee, punters can seek out my counsel on these matters and I will gladly offer my expertise!’
    • ‘You'd be smart, however, to seek expert counsel before committing to a long-term payment plan.’
    • ‘Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?’
    • ‘One knows not to question the wisdom of the Delphic seers, those voices of prescience whose cryptic counsels were so poorly interpreted by their clientele.’
    • ‘Some bishops will increasingly seek and rely on counsel in these matters, but whether they ask for it from those offering to give it remains to be seen.’
    • ‘He would make himself available at any time of day or night to anyone seeking his help or counsel.’
    advice, guidance, direction, instruction, information, enlightenment
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1archaic Consultation, especially to seek or give advice.
      ‘he took much counsel with him’
      conference, consultation, discussion, deliberation, dialogue, conversation
      View synonyms
  • 2A barrister or other legal adviser conducting a case.

    ‘the counsel for the defence’
    • ‘No company in its right mind sends out a prospectus or press release without getting its counsel to do some legal vetting first.’
    • ‘We order a representation order for leading counsel, junior counsel and a solicitor for the retrial.’
    • ‘As a result, our legal counsel advised us to collect an original, signed waiver with each membership application or renewal.’
    • ‘I have still to consult with counsel in this matter, my Lord.’
    • ‘As I said before, the defence counsel's submission was legally correct, and his Honour should not have told the jury to put it to one side.’
    • ‘Defence counsel and the accused waive this date for jury selection and trial.’
    • ‘We are told that the defence counsel was dismissed or did not see the trial through and that a solicitor had to do the best he could in the circumstances.’
    • ‘Your role as a defence counsel is to fearlessly advocate for the person you are representing.’
    • ‘He claimed he could never consult with his counsel privately without a correctional services official being present and that they insisted on reading privileged documents.’
    • ‘Defence counsel replied that he would be calling evidence to the contrary in regard to that charge.’
    • ‘Lead counsels are also the ones who build the team by recruiting people for each aspect of the case.’
    • ‘It was taken at trial in the sense that the learned judge was asked by defence counsel for a special verdict to be considered.’
    • ‘I have reduced junior counsels ' fees since it is my view that the time spent in preparation for the motion and the Bill of Costs was excessive and no doubt this was due, at least partly, to inexperience in dealing with estate matters.’
    • ‘Our clients therefore intend to appear before the court on Monday through counsel to seek an order that the application be dismissed with costs.’
    • ‘He obviously would have consulted with counsel and they would have told them not to destroy any evidence, first of all, because he'd make matters worse.’
    • ‘The committee counsels are scheduled to testify at the morning session, and it's standard practice for Congressional committees to hear from their counsels before taking testimony from outside witnesses.’
    • ‘However, the apex court has not given any date on hearing the matter so far, according to counsels here.’
    • ‘In other words, the efforts of the defence counsel on a partial indemnity basis are justified.’
    • ‘No doubt, all counsel seek to enter a caveat of the kind just entered.’
    • ‘Indisputably an appellant solicitor or counsel can conduct his own appeal.’
    barrister, lawyer, counsellor, legal practitioner
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  • 1Give advice to (someone)

    ‘careers officers should counsel young people in making their career decisions’
    with object and infinitive ‘he was counselled by his supporters to return to Germany’
    • ‘They observe and mentor the students, provide them feedback, counsel them, and assist them with their professional and personal development.’
    • ‘Just try and explain to an outsider what it is you really do in the part of your job where you directly counsel kids.’
    • ‘Lee spends a lot of time counseling young people, encouraging them to build strong foundations not just in the gym, but in all aspects of life.’
    • ‘I would expect police officers to counsel the drivers on what is to be acquired.’
    • ‘It is easy to give advice, but I find it very difficult to counsel these kids as to how to go about getting out of trouble.’
    • ‘In fact, she was counseled to remove her ear hoop for the forum, but she refused.’
    • ‘It's time to stop counselling these young people, and to start challenging them instead.’
    • ‘Company executives should counsel their marketing professionals to underpromise and overdeliver.’
    • ‘Workers should be counseled about personal hygiene, and management personnel should be advised about proper handwashing agents.’
    • ‘Another frequent recommendation counsels scientists to set up collaborations with groups of scientists at different institutions.’
    • ‘I believe he will do as the law instructs him to and we will certainly counsel him to obey the law.’
    • ‘I can't even remember what advice I was seeking from him but he did counsel me over the phone (for whatever it was) and then promised to visit me.’
    • ‘The chair has to counsel the president on the timing and presentation of information for the board.’
    • ‘But obviously, I would counsel her, and talk to her, and support her on whatever decision she'd make.’
    • ‘It is not desirable, but while not condoning the behaviour you try and counsel her and direct her to the parents.’
    • ‘He spends many hours weekly counseling young people about their future, and teaching a marriage class.’
    • ‘In these new circumstances, he has counselled writers and intellectuals to be cautious.’
    • ‘Maybe in an effort to offer people something tangible to do, he counselled citizens to prepare for the worst and ensure that every home had its own personal preparedness plan.’
    • ‘It would also help to counsel families on making informed decisions about their educational choices.’
    • ‘I had to be the strong point within this group of people, and help counsel them.’
    1. 1.1 Give professional help and advice to (someone) to resolve personal or psychological problems.
      ‘he was being counselled for depression’
      • ‘Now these offenders, the vast majority of them men, pose peculiar dilemmas for the professionals counselling them.’
      • ‘Nine psychologists, some of whom have counselled the women, are prepared to give evidence of the emotional and personal damage inflicted on the two officials.’
      • ‘I hope, as head of the foundation, to raise £1m in funding, which will be used to pay for the dedicated team of people who counsel the children who need help.’
      • ‘She is the staff psychologist who counsels patients in many areas including changes in family dynamics and grief brought on by cancer.’
      • ‘She is a Sydney-based consultant psychologist who has counselled many people who have been caught up in bank robberies.’
      • ‘Dozens of psychologists and social workers were on hand to counsel students in distress.’
      • ‘It's important to educate and counsel women about genetic information and cancer risk.’
      • ‘She estimated that she's counselled about 400 people, almost all of them women, since founding the organisation.’
      • ‘Beyond counseling families, the residents are also helping professionals working with families.’
      • ‘Health professionals also have a role in counseling patients about safe and effective weight loss and weight maintenance programs.’
      • ‘The woman sitting next to me had counseled children facing severe emotional and physical abuse for 20 years.’
      • ‘For now, clinicians need to use caution in interpreting available information and in counseling their patients.’
      • ‘His wife is a psychologist who counsels cancer patients for a living.’
      • ‘With this information, health professionals at the point of diagnosis can actually counsel families and the patients about what will happen to them.’
      • ‘He volunteers two days of his time a week, counselling clients on a one-to-one basis and facilitating group psychotherapy and healing sessions.’
      • ‘The psychologists at the camp have also come forward to counsel the students and their parents over the next two days.’
      • ‘I am not aware of different psychological therapies besides counseling both the patient and the partner.’
      • ‘She now wants to use her qualifications to be able to counsel other people who suffer with clinical depression.’
      • ‘If professionals fail to counsel patients in the way recognized by their peers as appropriate they may be negligent.’
      • ‘They counselled me and suggested I be involved in a support group.’
    2. 1.2 Recommend (a course of action)
      ‘the athlete's coach counselled caution’
      • ‘But there are some serious - though hard to quantify - risks that counsel caution.’
      • ‘While they continue to counsel caution and bipartisanship on the part of Democrats, other senators are leaping into action.’
      • ‘At most it counsels caution, prudence and a little more scepticism.’
      • ‘He is only the latest to have counselled caution.’
      • ‘But he counsels caution, and insists that patients should be able to make a free and informed decision before undergoing the treatment.’
      • ‘At one level, he is wise to counsel caution when it comes to generalizing about which side of the political debate is religious.’
      • ‘"You don't want to get rusty, " she counseled sagely.’
      • ‘While the big oil companies continue to counsel caution, analysts believe they will take a more liberal view if prices remain strong for any significant period.’
      • ‘Of course, he did not counsel indifference, let alone abstention, from the economic struggles of the working class.’
      • ‘These are not reasons for inaction but they counsel caution and careful planning.’
      • ‘Although no one questions the statistical rigour of the Michigan survey, or of its equivalents elsewhere in the world, experts counsel caution when jumping to economic conclusions.’
      • ‘And I would prefer that patience be counseled and that the process take its course.’
      • ‘He counselled caution from the beginning, using much the same arguments he had four years previously.’
      • ‘Others, more hopeful, counselled patience and resolve.’
      • ‘He knows to counsel caution more than anybody.’
      • ‘It is not surprising that he has already counselled caution about the chances of resuming the constitutional talks.’
      • ‘My father had been the only family member to counsel personal happiness over ancestral duty.’
      • ‘In fact, commanders counselled caution and warned that hasty judgements by the media would be premature!’
      • ‘Her style of investigation is practical, and she counsels caution when deducing daily life from what has been found in tombs.’
      • ‘The national development agency's study, which counselled caution, examined housing prices in 35 cities and urged authorities to prevent developing price distortions.’
      advise, guide, direct, recommend, encourage, entreat, urge, warn, admonish, caution
      View synonyms


  • a counsel of despair

    • An action to be taken when all else fails.

      ‘not to build because we are short of doctors would be a counsel of despair’
      • ‘That is not a counsel of despair, just a measure of the complexity of the task, which requires at least the sorts of skills and long-term commitment needed to master a language and culture.’
      • ‘To impose a tie-up scheme would be a counsel of despair and an admission that the system has completely failed.’
      • ‘This is a counsel of despair that does not convince.’
      • ‘It is a counsel of despair to believe that serious journalism is incapable of being popular journalism.’
      • ‘So shall we project our own cramped and gloomy worldview on to those who are most sensitive to counsels of despair?’
      • ‘And yet this essay does not set out to be a counsel of despair.’
      • ‘Allowing the two sides to fight until exhaustion is a counsel of despair.’
      • ‘"I think this is a counsel of despair, " he said.’
      • ‘The retreat into philosophy is, however, a negative response to this situation; it is a counsel of despair in the face of a hostile world.’
      • ‘This is a counsel of despair at what is the most promising moment for political accommodation I can recall.’
  • a counsel of perfection

    • Advice that is ideal but not feasible.

      ‘while it may be a counsel of perfection, it must be advisable for the insurer to attempt to investigate each claim’
      • ‘I must not judge his acts or omissions by the standards of a counsel of perfection, nor yet with the benefit of hindsight.’
      • ‘I think it is a counsel of perfection to say that he ought to have seen and reacted the very second she stepped off the kerb.’
      • ‘That said, courts must avoid using such power to look over the shoulder of business as a counsel of perfection.’
      • ‘Although it may be a counsel of perfection, true stress and strain could provide a more accurate picture of what is happening.’
      • ‘Adjudication is not and cannot be a counsel of perfection.’
      • ‘‘It is important that the obligation to take into consideration all relevant considerations is not converted into a counsel of perfection for planning officers' reports’.’
      • ‘It gives sound advice, but it is a counsel of perfection.’
      • ‘But this, I think, is rather a counsel of perfection than a reason for leaving the purchaser entirely at the mercy of the vendor.’
      • ‘If anybody was engaged in a counsel of perfection, it was this Inspector.’
  • keep one's own counsel

    • Say nothing about what one thinks or plans.

      ‘she doubted what he said but kept her own counsel’
      • ‘There is, after all, something to be said for keeping one's own counsel.’
      • ‘Those without mistresses kept their own counsel.’
      • ‘He kept his own counsel as an artist and, sitting at his work clad in a distinctive tweed suit, he largely ignored the enthusiastic audiences that would gather to watch him paint.’
      • ‘My father should have been happier, and perhaps he was; he kept his own counsel about happiness.’
      • ‘‘I have kept my own counsel but we know what we would do,’ he told the BBC last week.’
      • ‘He is a contradiction: he makes grand, philosophical speeches, but keeps his own counsel.’
      • ‘He kept his own counsel, did not appear to let the speculation affect him in any way and, ultimately, secured his dream move to Liverpool.’
      • ‘Taunted by the Prime Minister on the one hand, and assailed by the left of his own party on the other, he has so far kept his own counsel.’
      • ‘Since he left the government in 2003 he has kept his own counsel, but was obviously unhappy about his treatment by his protégé.’
      • ‘Equally, I have kept my own counsel on promises that weren't kept to me at my first three clubs.’
  • take counsel

    • Discuss a problem.

      ‘the party leader and chairman took counsel together’
      • ‘As long as you're not going off on a solo run and you consult and take counsel by speaking to other players and people, then you can make a decision on what direction to take.’
      • ‘Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace.’
      • ‘And let him also take counsel with his spirit and grasp with his mind still greater ability.’
      • ‘I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude - and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating.’
      • ‘A running back in his first year at Ohio State University, he has been taking counsel on the prospect of overturning the league regulations to earn himself a fast-track pass towards millionaire status.’
      • ‘The Commander sat at a round table with the heads of the five departments, all men, taking counsel with them.’
      • ‘I hope we can use the time between now and then to reflect, to pray, to consult and to take counsel.’
      • ‘She says the party has drifted away from roots over past 10 years with the leaders taking counsel from personal advisers and consultants instead of the party itself.’
      • ‘Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, in the 1830s, that the great constitutive power of the American republic was its town councils and rural communities, in which small assemblies of citizens took counsel for their immediate good.’
      • ‘We looked at those issues, listened to the advice, took counsel from civil libertarians - who raised some legitimate issues - and looked at how this legislation ties in with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.’


Middle English: via Old French counseil (noun), conseiller (verb), from Latin consilium ‘consultation, advice’, related to consulere (see consult). Compare with council.