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[kuh n-fes] /kənˈfɛs/
verb (used with object)
to acknowledge or avow (a fault, crime, misdeed, weakness, etc.) by way of revelation.
to own or admit as true:
I must confess that I haven't read the book.
to declare or acknowledge (one's sins), especially to God or a priest in order to obtain absolution.
(of a priest) to hear the confession of (a person).
to acknowledge one's belief or faith in; declare adherence to.
to reveal by circumstances.
verb (used without object)
to make confession; plead guilty; own:
to confess to a crime.
to make confession of sins, especially to a priest.
(of a priest) to hear confession.
1300-50; Middle English confessen < Anglo-French, Old French confesser < Medieval Latin confessāre, verbal derivative of Latin confessus, past participle of confitērī to admit, confess, equivalent to con- con- + -fitērī, combining form of fatērī to admit
Related forms
confessable, adjective
confessingly, adverb
half-confessed, adjective
preconfess, verb (used with object)
unconfessed, adjective
unconfessing, adjective
1. See acknowledge. 2. grant, concede.
1. conceal. 2. deny. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for confess
  • Zoe is forced to confess and now wonders if she'll ever be free.
  • Any one of several hundred resistants who recognized him could break down and confess under torture.
  • Forcing someone to confess to a crime that everyone knows he could not possibly have committed, on the other hand, is terrifying.
  • Torture statistics enough and they will confess to anything.
  • The idea that one can confess to a crime one didn't commit seems bizarre.
  • Then there's the level of what you are really doing, whether you confess to it or not.
  • He was about to confess to the waitress that he didn't have any money when a stranger approached him.
  • Torture the data long enough, and they will confess to anything.
  • People who confess to feeling happy also grin more than others.
  • Weeks later the prosecutor was still trying to get her to confess.
British Dictionary definitions for confess


verb (when transitive, may take a clause as object)
when intr, often foll by to. to make an acknowledgment or admission (of faults, misdeeds, crimes, etc)
(transitive) to admit or grant to be true; concede
(Christianity, mainly RC Church) to declare (one's sins) to God or to a priest as his representative, so as to obtain pardon and absolution
Derived Forms
confessable, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French confesser, from Late Latin confessāre, from Latin confessus confessed, from confitērī to admit, from fatērī to acknowledge; related to Latin fārī to speak
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for confess

late 14c., from Old French confesser (transitive and intransitive), from Vulgar Latin *confessare, from Latin confess-, past participle stem of confiteri "to acknowledge," from com- "together" (see com-) + fateri "to admit," akin to fari "speak" (see fame (n.)).

Its original religious sense was of one who avows his religion in spite of persecution or danger but does not suffer martyrdom. Old French confesser thus had a figurative sense of "to harm, hurt, make suffer." Related: Confessed; confessing. An Old English word for it was andettan.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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