Definition of conscience in US English:



  • An inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one's behavior.

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


  • in (good) conscience

    • By any reasonable standard; by all that is fair.

      ‘they have in conscience done all they could’
      • ‘But I could not, in good conscience, have enjoyed that event then, if I did not do something, first.’
      • ‘Those who in conscience cannot obey United Methodist Church law, law that has been confirmed once again to represent the mind of the church, should practice ecclesial disobedience, not civil disobedience.’
      • ‘‘I marvel sometimes at the steadfastness of the whole Catholic body, at the discipline and obedience and love it has shown under a very demanding pope, the maturity of the decisions it makes in conscience,’ he wrote.’
      • ‘If a journalist finds that he cannot in conscience breach a confidential source, he should be prepared to spend some time in jail for that act of civil disobedience.’
      • ‘Absent such proof, I could not in conscience advise a young Catholic woman to rely on the method - not if she wished to plan her family in concert with paid employment.’
      • ‘They may in conscience assume that decision-makers have weighed the moral and personal costs of using them in conflict against the weight of the national interests involved and deemed it an acceptable equation.’
      • ‘I could not in good conscience participate in this behavior nor could I in good conscience willingly support those who participate in this behavior.’
      • ‘But I don't understand a man who has been supportive of the administration's policies, and who has reached a decision in conscience, should be treated like this by anyone in this country.’
      • ‘I could not in good conscience allow this money to be used for the murder of innocent people.’
      • ‘And I cannot, in conscience, cooperate in the permanent corruption of our moral life - particularly at the hands of a professed Catholic.’
  • 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’
      • ‘And how would you feel to have their deaths on your conscience?’
      • ‘He has a baby's death on his conscience for the rest of his days.’
      • ‘The matter weighed on his conscience heavily, but he knew no other way of dealing with it.’
      • ‘The consequences of her actions weighed heavily on her conscience, but she refused to feel guilty.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This conviction sat heavily on her conscience.’
      • ‘I like to imagine that nearly killing a four year old by your recklessness and stupidity would weigh on your conscience.’
      • ‘If he did, he's got enough to weigh on his conscience for another quarter of a century.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’


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’.