Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one's conduct together with the urge to prefer right over wrong: Let your conscience be your guide.
  • n. A source of moral or ethical judgment or pronouncement: a document that serves as the nation's conscience.
  • n. Conformity to one's own sense of right conduct: a person of unflagging conscience.
  • n. The part of the superego in psychoanalysis that judges the ethical nature of one's actions and thoughts and then transmits such determinations to the ego for consideration.
  • n. Obsolete Consciousness.
  • idiom in (all good) conscience In all truth or fairness.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The moral sense of right and wrong, chiefly as it affects one's own behaviour; inwit.
  • n. A personification of the moral sense of right and wrong, usually in the form of a person, a being or merely a voice that gives moral lessons and advices.
  • n. Consciousness; thinking; awareness, especially self-awareness.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Knowledge of one's own thoughts or actions; consciousness.
  • n. The faculty, power, or inward principle which decides as to the character of one's own actions, purposes, and affections, warning against and condemning that which is wrong, and approving and prompting to that which is right; the moral faculty passing judgment on one's self; the moral sense.
  • n. The estimate or determination of conscience; conviction or right or duty.
  • n. Tenderness of feeling; pity.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Consciousness; knowledge.
  • n. Private or inward thoughts; real sentiments.
  • n. The consciousness that the acts for which a person believes himself to be responsible do or do not conform to his ideal of right; the moral judgment of the individual applied to his own conduct, in distinction from his perception of right and wrong in the abstract, and in the conduct of others.
  • n. Moral sense; scrupulosity; conformity to one's own sense of right in conduct, or to that of the community.
  • n. Tender feeling; pity.
  • n. Same as breastplate, A bellarmine.
  • n. Most certainly; assuredly.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. conformity to one's own sense of right conduct
  • n. motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person's thoughts and actions
  • n. a feeling of shame when you do something immoral

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin cōnscientia, from cōnsciēns, cōnscient-, present participle of cōnscīre, to be conscious of : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + scīre, to know; see skei- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French conscience, from Latin conscientia ("knowledge within oneself"), from consciens, present participle of conscire ("to know, to be conscious (of wrong)"), from com- ("together") + scire ("to know"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • "I know that Elise has a conscience that will hold her fast to duty," said Benigna, but she did not speak hopefully: she spoke deliberately, however, thinking that these words _conscience_ and _duty_ might arrest the minister's attention, and that he would perhaps, by some means, throw light upon questions which were constantly becoming more perplexing to her.

    Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science Volume 11, No. 23, February, 1873

  • "accuse," and how universally it does so, abundant testimony of Christian missionaries shows; and conscience can "excuse," which is the method that guilty thoughts invariably suggest; but _conscience cannot justify_.

    The Ministry of the Spirit

  • In Scripture, the word conscience is the Greek word suneidesis, which means “co-perception”—that is, “accompanying moral consciousness and awareness.”

    God is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu …

  • The mystical or metaphorical meaning of the word conscience is to see as God perceives, to see things as they can become.

    God is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu …

  • It matters not whether the act be successful or not, discovered or concealed; the culprit is no longer the same, but another person; and he is pursued by a secret uneasiness, by self-reproach, or the workings of what we call conscience, which is the inevitable doom of the guilty.

    How to Get on in the World A Ladder to Practical Success

  • St. Thomas, leading the Dominicans, places synteresis not in the will but in the intellect, and he applies the term conscience to the concrete determinations of the general principle which the synteresis furnishes: "By conscience the knowledge given through synteresis is applied to particular actions".

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 4: Clandestinity-Diocesan Chancery

  • It is generally designated by the term conscience, or the capacity of being influenced by the moral relations of things.

    Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • In the present case we find language perfectly justifiable in making so wide a use of the term conscience, inasmuch as all the above phases are in fact embraced in it, though indeed not in equal degrees.

    Christian Ethics. Volume II.���Pure Ethics.

  • That's the first time I've heard Leonard mention his "conscience" in this issue -- and of course, he discusses how his conscience is affected by "holding hostage" a giant corporation -- MLS.

    City to Portland Beavers: Bye (Jack Bog's Blog)

  • Once again -- trust your own instincts and anxieties, especially those concerning people who claim that dominating others, violence, war, or some other violation of your conscience is the grand solution to some problem.

    An Interview with Martha Stout

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