A conscience is a built-in sense of what's right and what's wrong. That sick feeling in your stomach after you lied to your brother about borrowing his skateboard? That might be your conscience bothering you.

The word conscience contains the word science, which comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning "to know" or "knowledge." You can think of your conscience as your knowledge of yourself, especially when it comes to your own morals, or your feelings about right and wrong. Pangs of conscience, which feel like an uncomfortable inner voice, are helpful when you're trying to decide the right thing to do in a particular situation.

Definitions of conscience
  1. noun
    motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person's thoughts and actions
    synonyms: moral sense, scruples, sense of right and wrong
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    (psychoanalysis) that part of the unconscious mind that acts as a conscience
    small voice, voice of conscience, wee small voice
    an inner voice that judges your behavior
    sense of duty, sense of shame
    a motivating awareness of ethical responsibility
    type of:
    ethical motive, ethics, morality, morals
    motivation based on ideas of right and wrong
  2. noun
    conformity to one's own sense of right conduct
    “a person of unflagging conscience
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    the quality of being in accord with the dictates of conscience
    the quality of being willing to ignore the dictates of conscience
    the quality of being extremely conscientious
    type of:
    concern with the distinction between good and evil or right and wrong; right or good conduct
  3. noun
    a feeling of shame when you do something immoral
    “he has no conscience about his cruelty”
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    type of:
    a painful emotion resulting from an awareness of inadequacy or guilt
Commonly confused words

conscious / conscience

Both words have to do with the mind, but it's more important to be conscious, or awake, than conscience, or aware of right and wrong. Remain conscious while listening to your friend's moral dilemma so you can use your conscience to give good advice.

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Word Family

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