Make Your Editor Cry: Conscious vs. Conscience vs. Conscientious

Make Your Editor Cry: Conscious vs. Conscience vs. Conscientious

Conscience, conscious, and conscientious derive from the same Latin roots—the prefix com- (“with,” “together,” “jointly”) and the verb scire (“to know”), and the combination, conscire, means “to be aware of guilt” and that traces back to a still older Latin word, scire, meaning “to know.”—and all of them relate to a state of awareness, the first of a moral awareness and the second of a physical or mental wakefulness in which a person is aware of their surroundings, and the last being directed or motivated by awareness. English speakers are first made aware of conscience in the 13th century, conscious in the 16th, and conscientious in the early 17th.

Sigmund Freud divided human consciousness into three levels of awareness: the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. If you are fully awake you are conscious but while asleep you would be “unconscious”. Speking for myself, I feel preconscious before my first cup of coffee.

Conscious, means more than just being awake. It means “being aware” of yourself or the world around you, or being sensitive to something. Conscious, means you are able to understand what is happening around you, such as a patient who becomes fully conscious after being administered anesthesia. It can also imply that a person is aware of a particular fact or feeling, such as an investor who is conscious of risk or athletes who are conscious of being role models for young people. Another common meaning of conscious describes a person who cares about something specified, such as the cost-conscious shopper and the morally conscious pro-life activist.

Examples:

There are conscious thoughts that you’re aware of and subconscious ones that you’re not.

I wish I wasn’t so conscious of every little nuance.

Additionally, conscious can modify an act or decision that is done deliberately, and so might result in conscious guilt, or a guilty conscience.

The noun conscience refers to a state of awareness or a sense that one’s actions or intentions are either “morally right or wrong,” along with a feeling of obligation to “do the right thing.” Cartoons often personify the conscience as a proverbial angel on one shoulder and devil on the other shoulder who each talk into the ear of an indecisive character, encouraging him to follow either a path of moral virtue or of moral corruption.

Examples:

His fine character and conscience earned him universal respect and confidence.

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

Writer and editor H.L. Mencken said, “Conscience is the inner voice which warns us someone may be looking.” A person who is conscientious makes sure that in case others are watching, they like what they see.

To be conscientious can mean to be governed by or conforming to the dictates of conscience. But most often it means to be careful, scrupulous, and meticulous.

Conscientious means to be very careful about doing what you are supposed to do, that is to say you are concerned with doing something correctly. Often, in times of war, people will have a conscientious objection to violence or warfare and declare themselves as conscientious objectors. Recall that all three words come from the Latin verb conscire, a word that means “to be aware of guilt”

Examples:

Alex was conscientious and he would never ask his employees to do anything he wouldn’t do.

He was a hard and conscientious worker and became widely known for his ability in debate.

All three words have to do with the mind or awareness, but you must be conscious to even exercise your conscience or to act in a conscientious manner. Remain conscious while listening to your friend’s moral dilemma so you can use your conscience to give careful conscientious advice.

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