Definition of counsel in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkaʊns(ə)l/


1 [mass noun] Advice, especially that given formally: with wise counsel a couple can buy a home that will be appreciating in value [count noun]: for the public, simple counsels of more patience are not enough
More example sentences
  • As for the European Union, the situation is really bad, though wiser counsels may prevail in the next week or so.
  • In fact, this is only one of many wise counsels to the cautious buyer who fears being landed with a freshly minted or happily married antique.
  • To the spiritually minded he was rich in wise counsels.
advice, guidance, direction, instruction, information, enlightenment;
recommendations, suggestions, hints, tips, pointers, guidelines, ideas, opinions, views, facts, data;
warning, admonition, caution
1.1 archaic Consultation, especially to seek or give advice: he took much counsel with him
conference, consultation, discussion, deliberation, dialogue, conversation;
talks, negotiations
formal confabulation
2 (plural same) A barrister or other legal adviser conducting a case: the counsel for the defence
More example sentences
  • Your role as a defence counsel is to fearlessly advocate for the person you are representing.
  • In other words, the efforts of the defence counsel on a partial indemnity basis are justified.
  • Defence counsel and the accused waive this date for jury selection and trial.
barrister, lawyer, counsellor, legal practitioner;
North American  attorney;
North American & Irish  counsellor-at-law;
Scottish Law  advocate
informal brief

verb (counsels, counselling, counselled; US counsels, counseling, counseled)

[with object]
1Give advice to (someone): careers officers should counsel young people in making their career decisions
More example sentences
  • I would expect police officers to counsel the drivers on what is to be acquired.
  • In these new circumstances, he has counselled writers and intellectuals to be cautious.
  • In fact, she was counseled to remove her ear hoop for the forum, but she refused.
1.1Give professional help and advice to (someone) to resolve personal or psychological problems: he was being counselled for depression
More example sentences
  • If professionals fail to counsel patients in the way recognized by their peers as appropriate they may be negligent.
  • His wife is a psychologist who counsels cancer patients for a living.
  • She estimated that she's counselled about 400 people, almost all of them women, since founding the organisation.
1.2Recommend (a course of action): the athlete’s coach counselled caution
More example sentences
  • In fact, commanders counselled caution and warned that hasty judgements by the media would be premature!
  • The national development agency's study, which counselled caution, examined housing prices in 35 cities and urged authorities to prevent developing price distortions.
  • At most it counsels caution, prudence and a little more scepticism.
advise, guide, direct, recommend, encourage, entreat, urge, warn, admonish, caution;
give guidance to, give direction to, give one's opinion to, give one's suggestions to



a counsel of despair

An action to be taken when all else fails: not to build because we are short of doctors would be a counsel of despair
More example sentences
  • To impose a tie-up scheme would be a counsel of despair and an admission that the system has completely failed.
  • This is a counsel of despair that does not convince.
  • This is a counsel of despair at what is the most promising moment for political accommodation I can recall.

a counsel of perfection

Advice that is ideal but not feasible: while it may be a counsel of perfection, it must be advisable for the insurer to attempt to investigate each claim
More example sentences
  • It gives sound advice, but it is a counsel of perfection.
  • ‘It is important that the obligation to take into consideration all relevant considerations is not converted into a counsel of perfection for planning officers' reports’.
  • Although it may be a counsel of perfection, true stress and strain could provide a more accurate picture of what is happening.

keep one's own counsel

Say nothing about what one thinks or plans: she doubted what he said but kept her own counsel
More example sentences
  • Those without mistresses kept their own counsel.
  • ‘I have kept my own counsel but we know what we would do,’ he told the BBC last week.
  • Equally, I have kept my own counsel on promises that weren't kept to me at my first three clubs.

take counsel

Discuss a problem: the party leader and chairman took counsel together
More example sentences
  • She says the party has drifted away from roots over past 10 years with the leaders taking counsel from personal advisers and consultants instead of the party itself.
  • Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, in the 1830s, that the great constitutive power of the American republic was its town councils and rural communities, in which small assemblies of citizens took counsel for their immediate good.
  • A running back in his first year at Ohio State University, he has been taking counsel on the prospect of overturning the league regulations to earn himself a fast-track pass towards millionaire status.


Middle English: via Old French counseil (noun), conseiller (verb), from Latin consilium 'consultation, advice', related to consulere (see consult). Compare with council.

Words that rhyme with counsel

council, groundsel

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: coun|sel

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