The wordnet dictionary defines remorse as:

n 1: a feeling of deep regret (usually for some misdeed)

And it defines gulit as:

n 1: the state of having committed an offense

2: remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offense

Yet, the wordnet dictionary nowhere defines one as a synonym of another. Do these both words basically mean the same thing?

  • I would say that they are very different. Guilt is a cousin to blame - blaming oneself. It is a separating emotion, and the very antithesis of taking responsibility. Remorse is akin to shame, and is a connecting emotion; it is a form of taking responsibility. But the distinction is hard to capture in words: it is more a matter of how the emotions feel.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 31 '16 at 14:26
  • 1
    Synonyms are interchangeable only in some usages. Guilty people don't always have feelings of guilt. And I don't think you're right about Wordnet; definition 2 for 'guilt' shows the synonymity clearly. Jul 31 '16 at 15:19
  • @EdwinAshworth: It claims synonymity. In reality, guilt and remorse are different.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 31 '16 at 21:00
  • @gnasher729 They're synonyms (which doesn't mean that they always carry the same sense) according to CDO, M-W, ODO, AHDEL, Collins, RHK Webster's ... Jul 31 '16 at 21:05
  • Finding that someone is guilty is a reason to put them in jail. Finding that someone is remorseful is a reason not to. I can think of no contexts where these words can correctly be used interchangeably.
    – Aaron K
    Apr 16 '20 at 1:38

'Remorse' is self-reproach, 'compunction', a realisation that one was indeed guilty- when one's inner conscience pricks one. So, one is in remorse when the consciences scolds one,"Hey, you erred,you harmed, you are guilty." Guilt leads to remorse. They are not same at all.

  • Remorse for an action need not come from guilt, it could just be hindsight. I.e. The knowledge that an action was unnecessary or counter-productive can lead to remorse, without someone feeling guilty.
    – jmoreno
    Jul 31 '16 at 14:21
  • I disagree humbly. Guilt -realisation is very important. Definition of remorse Look upOptions|Tips More1. [n] a feeling of deep regret (usually for some misdeed) . ⇔ Synonyms [ compunction self-reproach ] ⇑Broader [regret sorrow ruefulness rue ]⇓Narrower [guilt guilty_conscience guilt_feelings guilt_trip ] [repentance penance penitence ]
    – Abhilaaj
    Jul 31 '16 at 14:37
  • You can regret something without feeling that you were bad for doing it. You can also deeply regret it without feeling that you were bad for doing so.
    – jmoreno
    Jul 31 '16 at 14:43
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    'They are not the same at all' - is hyperbolic. 'remorse' and 'guilt' are more alike than they are like 'shame', and those are more alike together than, say, 'optimism', and those are more alike than, say, 'stone'. Try to gauge your scale.
    – Mitch
    Jul 31 '16 at 16:08

I have no source for this, but my natural feeling is:

  • Guilt is feeling negative about your past action.
  • Remorse is wishing you had taken a different action.

So, for example, you could feel guilty about an action, but realize that the alternatives weren't any better and thus not feel remorse.

As an aside, shame is feeling negative about an aspect of your character, whereas the other two are feelings associated with actions you've taken.

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