Word Confusion: Conscience versus Conscious

Posted January 2, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 22 August 2017

This one usually trips me up. Fortunately, I can nip over to my website and get a quick reminder that one’s conscience should guide one’s choices.

And yes, sometimes it’s a conscious choice to pay attention to that conscience…sigh…

One mnemonic aid I thought of was sin. It’s a poor one, yet came as I was looking at both words—c-o-n-s-c-i-e-n-c-e. After all, going against one’s conscience usually is a sin…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Conscience Conscious
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

A little girl in a turn-of-the-century dress is sitting on a stool in the corner with a guilty-looking dog leaning up against the legs

“Zwei schlechte Gewissen” by Karl Reichert is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We’ll hope that her conscience rears up next time and keeps her out of trouble, lol.

A black-and-white painted house has a grassy roof

“Norðragøta, Faroe Islands” by Erik Christensen, Porkeri (Contact at the Danish Wikipedia), is under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Someone made a conscious choice to plant a grassy roof.

Part of Grammar:
Noun Adjective
An inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior, conduct or motives

The complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual

An inhibiting sense of what is prudent

[Obsolete] Consciousness

  • Self-knowledge

[Obsolete] Strict and reverential observance

Aware of and responding to one’s surroundings, existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.


Fully aware of or sensitive to something (often followed by of)

Having the mental faculties fully active

Known to oneself

  • Felt

Aware of what one is doing

  • Deliberate
  • Intentional
Yeah, the guy confessed. Said it was preying on his conscience.

In all good conscience, I simply can’t go along with this.

An act of providence had prevented him from having a death on his conscience.

He had a guilty conscience about his desires.

Ben was suffering a pang of conscience.

My conscience is clear.

Yes, it was a conscious decision by the board.

Is he conscious?

I am conscious of wanting to eat more chocolate bonbons, but my conscience would bother me.

Believe me, he’s conscious of his lies.

It’s best to be conscious of one’s own faults.

He wasn’t conscious of the gossip about his past.

He was conscious during the operation.

It was a conscious guilt, for he knew that what he had done was wrong.

If you make a conscious effort at improving your grades, I’ll buy you a bike.

Adjective: conscience-stricken, conscienceless, conscientious
Adverb: consciencelessly
Noun: consciencelessness, conscientiousness, subconscience
Adjective: half-conscious, nonconscious, self-conscious
Adverb: consciously, half-consciously
Noun: half-consciousness
History of the Word:
Middle English in the sense of inner thoughts or knowledge and via Old French from Latin conscientia, from conscient- meaning being privy to, from the verb conscire, which is from con- (with) + scire (know). Late 16th century in the sense of being aware of wrongdoing from the Latin conscius meaning knowing with others or in oneself, which is from conscire (be privy to) + -ous.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

The Full-page miniature of Adam, Eve and the Serpent was scanned by the New York Public Library and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.