Word Choice: Guilt vs. Gilt
  • 3-minute read
  • 17th May 2021

Word Choice: Guilt vs. Gilt

“Guilt” and “gilt” sound very similar. They’re also similarly spelled, with only the “u” in “guilt” different. But these terms are very distinct in meaning. To make sure you can use them correctly in your writing, check out our helpful guide below.

Guilt (Having Done Something Wrong)

“Guilt” can be a noun or a verb, but both relate to having done something wrong. As a noun, it has two main uses. One is to refer to a feeling of regret for a wrongdoing:

Leaving his family left him full of guilt.

Guilt troubled his every waking thought.

Or it can refer to the fact of having done something wrong:

The police will prove his guilt in relation to the crime.

As a verb, meanwhile, it means “cause someone to feel guilty”:

He denied it at first, but she guilted him into an admission.

If there’s a wrongdoing at hand, then, the spelling you need will be “guilt.”

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Gilt (A Thin Layer of Gold)

“Gilt” is usually an adjective meaning “covered in a thin layer of gold (or a similar material).” For example, a gold-leaf covered picture frame:

The gilt frame made the painting look much more expensive.

It can also be a noun that refers to a thin layer of gold or silver:

She applied gilt to the surface of the carving.

The process of adding gilt to something is “gilding,” with a “d” instead of a “t.”

In addition, “gilt” can refer to a young female pig or a UK financial bond. However, these uses are much more specialized, so you might not see them often!

A silver gilt tankard.
A silver gilt tankard.
(Photo: Rau Antiques)

Summary: Guilt or Gilt?

While these words sound similar, they differ significantly in meaning:

  • Guilt is usually a noun that refers to either the feeling or fact of having done something wrong. It can also be a verb meaning “make someone feel guilty.”
  • Gilt can be an adjective or a noun, and it usually refers to a thin layer of gold (or a similar material) applied to something’s surface.

If you can remember that “guilt” is always related to having done something wrong, you’ll know “gilt” is correct in other situations. And to make sure you don’t miss any errors in your work, you can even get it proofread. Upload a 500-word trial document today to find out how our services work for free.

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