Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

compunction

play
noun com·punc·tion \kəm-ˈpəŋ(k)-shən\

Simple Definition of compunction

  • : a feeling of guilt or regret ( chiefly US )

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of compunction

  1. 1 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>

  2. 2 :  a twinge of misgiving :  scruple <cheated without compunction>

compunctious play \-shəs\ adjective

Examples of compunction in a sentence

  1. a brutal murderer who killed without compunction

  2. He feels no compunction about his crimes.

  3. He has no compunctions about his crimes.



Did You Know?

An old proverb says "a guilty conscience needs no accuser," and it's true that the sting of a guilty conscience-or a conscience that is provoked by the contemplation of doing something wrong-can prick very hard indeed. The sudden guilty "prickings" of compunction are reflected in the word's etymological history. Compunction comes (via the Anglo-French compunction and the Middle English compunccioun) from the Latin compungere, which means "to prick hard" or "to sting." Compungere, in turn, derives from pungere, meaning "to prick," which is the ancestor of some other prickly words in English, such as "puncture" and even "point."

Origin of compunction

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>.

Rhymes with compunction



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up compunction? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to dishevel or rumple

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

alt-5746713d76276

Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

perplex soothe disapprove reduce
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ