From Middle English confessen, from Anglo-Norman confesser, from Old French confesser, from Latin confessus (Old French confés), past participle of cōnfiteor (I confess, I admit) from con- + fateor (I admit). Displaced Middle English andetten (to confess, admit) (from Old English andettan). Doublet of confiteor.


  • IPA(key): /kənˈfɛs/
  • Audio (US):(file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛs



confess (third-person singular simple present confesses, present participle confessing, simple past and past participle confessed)

  1. (intransitive, transitive) To admit to the truth, particularly in the context of sins or crimes committed.
    I confess to spray-painting all over that mural!
    I confess that I am a sinner.
    • c. 1603–1604 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene ii]:
      I never gave it him. Send for him hither, / And let him confess a truth.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book IX”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker []; [a]nd by Robert Boulter []; [a]nd Matthias Walker, [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC:
      And there confess / Humbly our faults, and pardon beg.
    • 1705, J[oseph] Addison, Remarks on Several Parts of Italy, &c. in the Years 1701, 1702, 1703, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      I must confess I was most pleased with a beautiful prospect that none of them have mentioned.
  2. (transitive) To acknowledge faith in; to profess belief in.
  3. (religion) To unburden (oneself) of sins to God or a priest, in order to receive absolution.
  4. (religion) To hear or receive such a confession of sins from.
    • 1523–1525, John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners (translator), Froissart's Chronicles
      He [] heard mass, and the prince, his son, with him, and the most part of his company were confessed.
    • 1867, W. K. Kelly, The Decameron: or ten day's entertainment of Boccaccio. A revised translation[1]:
      A jealous man confesses his wife under a priest's habit, who tells him that she is visited every night by a friar; []
  5. (transitive) To disclose or reveal.

Derived terms




See also