noun com·punc·tion \kəm-ˈpəŋ(k)-shən\

: a feeling of guilt or regret ( chiefly US )

Full Definition of COMPUNCTION

a :  anxiety arising from awareness of guilt <compunctions of conscience>
b :  distress of mind over an anticipated action or result <showed no compunction in planning devilish engines of … destruction — Havelock Ellis>
:  a twinge of misgiving :  scruple <cheated without compunction>
com·punc·tious \-shəs\ adjective


  1. a brutal murderer who killed without compunction
  2. He feels no compunction about his crimes.
  3. He has no compunctions about his crimes.


Middle English compunccioun, from Anglo-French compunction, from Late Latin compunction-, compunctio, from Latin compungere to prick hard, sting, from com- + pungere to prick — more at pungent
First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of COMPUNCTION

penitence, repentance, contrition, compunction, remorse mean regret for sin or wrongdoing. penitence implies sad and humble realization of and regret for one's misdeeds <absolution is dependent upon sincere penitence>. repentance adds the implication of a resolve to change <repentance accompanied by a complete change of character>. contrition stresses the sorrowful regret that constitutes true penitence <tearful expressions of contrition>. compunction implies a painful sting of conscience especially for contemplated wrongdoing <had no compunctions about taking back what is mine>. remorse suggests prolonged and insistent self-reproach and mental anguish for past wrongs and especially for those whose consequences cannot be remedied <thieves untroubled by feelings of remorse>.

qualm, scruple, compunction, demur mean a misgiving about what one is doing or going to do. qualm implies an uneasy fear that one is not following one's conscience or better judgment <no qualms about plagiarizing>. scruple implies doubt of the rightness of an act on grounds of principle <no scruples against buying stolen goods>. compunction implies a spontaneous feeling of responsibility or compassion for a potential victim <had compunctions about lying>. demur implies hesitation caused by objection to an outside suggestion or influence <accepted her decision without demur>.



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