Difference Wiki

Culprit vs. Guilty: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on October 15, 2023
Culprit refers to someone responsible for an offense or fault, while Guilty means having committed a specific or implied offense.

Key Differences

Culprit and Guilty are both terms associated with wrongdoing. However, Culprit specifically identifies a person or entity responsible for a certain misdeed or crime. In contrast, Guilty indicates the state or condition of having committed an offense. It doesn't necessarily specify an individual or group but rather describes a status or feeling.
Culprit is primarily used as a noun in the English language. For instance, when we say, "The culprit was caught," we refer to the individual who committed a specific act. On the other hand, Guilty serves as an adjective, describing the nature or condition of someone or something. "He felt guilty after lying" denotes a personal emotion or state.
When describing someone as the Culprit, it typically means that they have been identified or suspected of a particular offense or action. This designation might not always indicate legal guilt but rather points out a party's involvement. Conversely, Guilty directly implies wrongdoing. If someone is deemed "guilty" in a court of law, it means they've been proven to have committed a crime.
Another noteworthy difference is the context in which both terms can be used. While Culprit often refers to tangible entities like individuals or groups responsible for actions, Guilty can also describe intangible feelings. For example, one might feel guilty for thinking negatively, even if they haven't acted on those thoughts. However, there wouldn't be a "culprit" in such scenarios since no real action was taken.
Culprit can sometimes be used in a more casual or colloquial context to refer to the cause of a minor problem. For instance, "The faulty wire was the culprit behind the power outage." In contrast, Guilty has a more consistently serious tone, usually indicating a breach of moral or legal standards.

Comparison Chart

Part of Speech



To a person or thing responsible for an action or condition
To the state of having committed a crime or moral wrongdoing


Can be used casually
Generally has a serious tone


Indicates involvement but not always legal guilt
Directly implies wrongdoing

Contextual Use

Often specific to an individual or cause
Can describe both tangible actions and intangible feelings

Culprit and Guilty Definitions


The cause of a problem or defect.
A virus was the culprit behind the software crash.


Feeling responsible for wrongdoing.
She felt guilty for missing her son's recital.


An agent responsible for undesirable results.
The wind was the main culprit in spreading the forest fire.


Showing signs of guilt or remorse.
The dog had a guilty look after tearing the pillow.


A person who has committed a crime or offense.
The police arrested the culprit after a brief chase.


Having committed a specific or implied offense.
He was found guilty of theft.


An individual charged with or suspected of a deed.
They had yet to identify the culprit behind the prank.


Responsible for an error or fault.
The referee admitted he was guilty of making a poor decision.


A source of blame or criticism.
Sugar is often the culprit in weight gain.


Responsible for a reprehensible act; culpable.


One charged with an offense or crime.


(Law) Found to have violated a criminal law by a jury or judge.


One guilty of a fault or crime.


Deserving blame, as for an error
Guilty of misjudgment.


The person or thing at fault for a problem or crime.
I have tightened the loose bolt that was the culprit; it should work now.


Suffering from or prompted by a sense of guilt
A guilty conscience.


A prisoner accused but not yet tried.


Suggesting or entailing guilt
A guilty smirk.
A guilty secret.


One accused of, or arraigned for, a crime, as before a judge.
An author is in the condition of a culprit; the public are his judges.


Responsible for a dishonest act.
He was guilty of cheating at cards.


One quilty of a fault; a criminal.


(legal) Judged to have committed a crime.
The guilty man was led away.


Someone who perpetrates wrongdoing


Having a sense of guilt.
Do you have a guilty conscience?


I have a guilty secret.


(legal) A plea by a defendant who does not contest a charge.


(legal) A verdict of a judge or jury on a defendant judged to have committed a crime.


One who is declared guilty of a crime.


Having incurred guilt; criminal; morally delinquent; wicked; chargeable with, or responsible for, something censurable; justly exposed to penalty; - used with of, and usually followed by the crime, sometimes by the punishment; as, guilty of murder.
They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
Nor he, nor you, were guilty of the strife.


Evincing or indicating guilt; involving guilt; as, a guilty look; a guilty act; a guilty feeling.


Conscious; cognizant.


Condemned to payment.


Responsible for or chargeable with a reprehensible act; or marked by guilt;
Guilty of murder
The guilty person
Secret guilty deeds
A guilty conscience
Guilty behavior


Showing a sense of guilt;
A guilty look
The hangdog and shamefaced air of the retreating enemy


Deserving of blame or responsibility.
The company was guilty of environmental violations.


What is a Culprit?

A Culprit is someone or something responsible for an action or fault.

Is Culprit always used in legal contexts?

No, Culprit can also refer to the cause of problems or defects in casual contexts.

Can Guilty describe a feeling?

Yes, one can feel guilty without having committed a tangible offense.

What does Guilty mean?

Guilty indicates having committed or being responsible for a wrongdoing.

Can there be multiple Culprits for a single act?

Yes, more than one person or factor can be responsible for an action.

Is the Culprit always guilty in a legal sense?

No, a culprit can be suspected or responsible, but not always legally guilty.

How is Culprit used in a sentence?

For example, "The detective searched for the culprit behind the heist."

Can someone be Guilty but not be the Culprit?

In some contexts, yes. A person can be legally guilty but might not have directly committed the act.

What's the opposite of Guilty in court terms?


Is feeling Guilty an admission of being the Culprit?

Not necessarily. One can feel guilty without being the actual cause or perpetrator.

How is Guilty used in a sentence?

For example, "The jury found the defendant guilty on all charges."

Can an inanimate object be a Culprit?

Yes, as in "The faulty engine was the culprit of the car's problems."

Is feeling Guilty always linked to an actual wrongdoing?

No, sometimes people feel guilty due to personal beliefs or perceived wrongs.

What emotions does Guilty commonly associate with?

Remorse, regret, and shame.

Can the word Culprit be used humorously?

Yes, like in "Chocolate is the main culprit in my diet's failure."

Does the Culprit always realize their fault?

No, sometimes a culprit might be unaware of their involvement.

Is there a term for when someone feels Guilty but hasn't done anything wrong?

It's often referred to as "false guilt" or "unwarranted guilt."

If someone is called the Culprit, does it mean they're confirmed guilty?

Not always, it means they're suspected or identified as responsible.

Is Guilty solely an English legal term?

No, the concept and term exist in various languages and legal systems.

Can animals be labeled as Culprits or feel Guilty?

Animals can be seen as culprits in certain contexts, and some might display behaviors akin to guilt, though their emotional experiences might differ from human interpretations.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons