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conscience Meaning, Definition & Usage

  1. noun motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person's thoughts and actions
    scruples; sense of right and wrong; moral sense.
  2. noun conformity to one's own sense of right conduct
    • a person of unflagging conscience
  3. noun a feeling of shame when you do something immoral
    • he has no conscience about his cruelty

Con"science noun
F. conscience, fr. L. conscientia, fr. consciens, p.pr. of conscire to know, to be conscious; con- + scire to know. See Science.
  1. Knowledge of one's own thoughts or actions; consciousness. Obs.
    The sweetest cordial we receive, at last, Is conscience of our virtuous actions past. Denham.
  2. 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.
    My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villain. Shak.
    As science means knowledge, conscience etymologically means self-knowledge . . . But the English word implies a moral standard of action in the mind as well as a consciousness of our own actions. . . . Conscience is the reason, employed about questions of right and wrong, and accompanied with the sentiments of approbation and condemnation. Whewell.
  3. The estimate or determination of conscience; conviction or right or duty.
    Conscience supposes the existence of some such [i.e., moral] faculty, and properly signifies our consciousness of having acted agreeably or contrary to its directions. Adam Smith.
  4. Tenderness of feeling; pity. Obs. Chaucer.

Webster 1913