Conscious vs 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.
Conscious, pronounced "KAHN-shuhs," means being aware of yourself or the world around you. It also means being sensitive to something or being awake, not asleep or insensible:
Witnesses say he was bleeding profusely but conscious and talking. (Washington Post)
He was even horribly conscious of a slow pallor creeping over his face. (Bertram Mitford)
Conscience, pronounced "KAHN-shuhns," is a moral understanding, an inner feeling, of right and wrong. If you were a cartoon, your conscience would be that little angel on your shoulder, telling you the right thing to do (and to ignore the little devil on the other side). See the word in action:
They went out guiltily, as men whose consciences troubled them. (Richard Marsh)
Passports are not required, but a social conscience probably is. (New York Times)
To help keep conscious and conscience straight, try emphasizing the second n inconscience, remembering that the conscience deals with your inner thoughts.
Conscience vs. Conscious: What’s the Difference?
There are a lot of commonly confused words in English, and these two are no exception. People regularly mix up conscience for conscious or vice versa.
And no wonder; it’s pretty easy to do. These words are both tough to spell, generally losing people after c-o-n-s-?
Spelling aside, however, both words have similar pronunciations—not identical but similar—and both words have to do with our minds.
With all of these similarities, it’s no wonder they get mixed up, but today I want to clear up any confusing you have about these words and give you a few tricks to remember the difference between them. After reading this post, you won’t ever make the conscience vs. conscious mistake again.
When to Use Conscience
Conscience is a noun and is defined as an awareness of morality in regard to one’s behavior. For example,
- My conscience told me not to take the money.
- Whenever I don’t know what to do, I let me conscience be my guide.
- The burglar must have had a turn of conscience because he returned all of the stolen goods.
When you hear the phrase “guilty conscience,” this is the spelling that people mean.
Idioms Using Conscience
There are a few different idioms involving conscience.
To do something “in good conscience” means that you did an honest, fair act by anyone’s standards.
To have something “on your conscience” means that something is causing you to feel guilty or uneasy.
When to Use Conscious
Conscious is an adjective and means characterized by or having an awareness of one’s environment; mentally perceptive or alert.
You might hear this term used frequently if you work in a doctor’s office.
- Is the patient conscious?
- We are unaware of any conscious life on other planets.
- I made a conscious decision not to attend the event.
Conscious generally means being aware of one’s self and one’s own actions.
A “conscious act” is one that you are aware of and intentionally or deliberately executed, such as not attending an event.
The corresponding noun to conscious is consciousness.
Pronunciation of Conscience and Conscious
As I mentioned above, these two words have similar pronunciations, but they are not identical.
Conscience is pronounced kŏn’shəns. It differs from conscious only in the sound that the “n” makes near the end of the word.
Conscious is pronounced kŏn’shəs. You can also closely imitate its sound it you squeeze the two words conand chess together “Con Chess.”
Remember the Difference
A good mnemonic to remember these is that you must be conscious to listen to your conscience.
You can also remember the difference between these words by look at the letters inside of them.
To have a conscience is to have a sense of morality and many elements of science ask moral questions.Science is in the word conscience.
To be conscious is to be aware of your surroundings. Both of these words have “ou’s” in them.
While these words have many similarities and both deal with levels of self-awareness, they each have their own specific use. Mixing up conscious vs. conscience in your writing is an unnecessary cause for embarrassment that is easy to avoid.
Conscience deals with the awareness of one’s own morality.
Conscious deals with the awareness of one’s surroundings.
Conscience Versus Conscious
You have something on your conscience when you feel guilty. Your conscience tells you the difference between right and wrong.
A lot of people mistake a short memory for a clear conscience. — Syndicated newspaper columnist Doug Larson
You are conscious when you are awake and conscious of something when you are aware of it.
Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities. — Novelist and Aldous Huxley in an article for Vendanta and the West, a journal related to Hindu philosophy and consciousness
Quick and Dirty Tip: Picture Albert Einstein—a physicist and mathematician who was interested in both science and philosophy—nagging you to do the right thing. The man of science appeals to your conscience.
Conscience vs. Conscious
By Mark Nichol
What’s the difference between conscience and conscious? They stem from the same Latin root, but their usage is distinct. Writers occasionally confuse the two words, but if you remain conscious, you’ll likely be able to say with a clear conscience that you know the difference.
Conscience and conscious both come from the Latin word conscius; the word elements mean “with” and “to know.” (Yes, the -science in conscience means the same thing as science itself.)
Conscience is a noun meaning “sense of the quality of one’s character and conduct,” “adherence to moral principles,” and “consideration of fairness and justice.” Confusion between conscience and conscious occurs because the latter word is sometimes used as a noun synonymous with consciousness, meaning “mental awareness,” though the longer form is usually employed.
More often, however, conscious appears as an adjective meaning “aware” or “awake,” or “involving perception or thought.” It also appears in combination with a noun in phrasal adjectives such as “budget conscious” to refer to someone who is concerned, sensitive, or vigilant about something.
Conscience and conscious can be distinguished because the former word is qualitative — people have various degrees of moral strength — while conscious, as its antonym, unconscious, indicates, is quantitative: You’re either one or the other, whether the word is used as a noun or an adjective.
However, consciousness, as the word is usually applied, like conscious refers to a continuum: We speak of raising one’s consciousness and of higher consciousness, because this quality can be improved or increased. Like the noun conscious, though, consciousness has a quantitative sense as well, referring to a state of mental activity, as opposed to unconsciousness caused by illness or injury.
Other words descended from the Latin word are self-conscious, which literally means “self-aware” but has acquired a connotation of “preoccupied with how one is perceived by others,” an attitude that leads to shyness and stress, and conscionable and its more common antonym unconscionable; the latter means “inexcusable, reprehensible.”
Conscientious means “scrupulous” or “careful”; a conscientious objector is someone who objects to a requirement on religious grounds. Originally, around the turn of the twentieth century, the context was mandatory vaccination, but ever since World War I, the primary sense has been of a person who refuses military conscription.