compunction

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

Definition of compunction

  1. 1a :  anxiety arising from awareness of guilt compunctions of conscienceb :  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 … he had no compunction about brushing aside legal technicalities. — Robert Penn Warren

compunctious

play \kəm-ˈpəŋ(k)-shən-shəs\ adjective

compunction was our Word of the Day on 02/02/2015. Hear the podcast!

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.

Recent Examples of compunction from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'compunction'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 and Etymology 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

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

COMPUNCTION Defined for English Language Learners

compunction

play
noun

Definition of compunction for English Language Learners

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



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).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

clear to the understanding

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • istock-refers-to-this-as-a-tumble-of-strawberries-which-sounded-pretty-nice-to-us
  • Which is a synonym of garner?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!