Definition: Guilt

From New World Encyclopedia

Etymology 1

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.
  2. (law) The state of having been found guilty or admitted guilt in legal proceedings.
  3. The regret of having done wrong.

Derived terms

  • beguilt
  • guilt complex
  • guiltfree
  • guiltless
  • guiltlessness
  • guilt-ridden
  • guilt trip
  • guilty
  • self-guilt


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors copied and adjusted this Wiktionary entry in accordance with NWE standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit for this article is due to both New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions at Wiktionary is accessible to researchers here: