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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English gilt, gult, from Old English gylt (guilt, sin, offense, crime, fault), of obscure origin, but possibly related with Old English ġieldan (to pay, requite, punish), whence yield. More specifically it could be connected with Proto-West Germanic *guldijā, whence Middle Low German gülde, Middle High German gülte (debt, fee, financial duty). However, neither the Old English stem form nor the -t (instead of -d) fit the continental form.


guilt (usually uncountable, plural guilts)

  1. Responsibility for wrongdoing.
    Antonym: innocence
  2. (law) The state of having been found guilty or admitted guilt in legal proceedings.
    Antonym: innocence
  3. The regret of having done wrong.
    Synonym: remorse
    • 2018, Timothy R. Jennings, The Aging Brain, →ISBN, page 158:
      Appropriate guilt is experienced when we actually do something objectively wrong—for example, exploit another, betray a trust, and so on. [] Inappropriate guilt occurs from believing a lie and is resolved by an application of the truth.
Derived terms[edit]
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See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English gilten, gylten, from Old English gyltan (to commit sin, be guilty), from gylt (guilt, sin, offense, crime, fault).


guilt (third-person singular simple present guilts, present participle guilting, simple past and past participle guilted)

  1. (intransitive, obsolete) To commit offenses; act criminally.
  2. (transitive, informal) To cause someone to feel guilt, particularly in order to influence their behaviour.
    He didn't want to do it, but his wife guilted him into it.
    • 1988, John Bradshaw, Healing the shame that binds you:
      Shame based parents would have guilted him for expressing anger.
    • 1992, Melody Beattie, Codependent No More: how to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself:
      We don't have to be manipulated, guilted, coerced, or forced into anything.
    • 1995, Nora Roberts, True Betrayals:
      But I won't be threatened or bribed or guilted into giving up something that's important to me.