com·​punc·​tion | \ kəm-ˈpəŋ(k)-shən How to pronounce compunction (audio) \

Definition of compunction

1a : 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 : a twinge of misgiving : scruple cheated without compunction … he had no compunction about brushing aside legal technicalities.— Robert Penn Warren

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Other Words from compunction

compunctious \ kəm-​ˈpəŋ(k)-​shən-​shəs How to pronounce compunctious (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for compunction


misgiving, qualm, scruple

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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."

Examples of compunction in a Sentence

a brutal murderer who killed without compunction He feels no compunction about his crimes. He has no compunctions about his crimes.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Surly and belligerent, Babs has no compunction about beating up a black teenager at a white-supremacist rally in Cleveland. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "A Racist Seeks Redemption in Skin," 25 July 2019 Andre Iguodala had no compunction about destroying New York Knicks fans' hopes of getting a superstar to save their favorite team after two decades of futility. Dana Scott, azcentral, "Andre Iguodala on NBA free agency: 'Nobody's going to the Knicks'," 24 June 2019 Others, including many of the former student campaigners who led the charge during the Umbrella Revolution, see a moral compunction in taking part in the vigil. Laignee Barron / Hong Kong, Time, "30 Years Later, Hong Kong Still Harbors the Spirit of Tiananmen," 4 June 2019 Conway has no compunction about buttonholing strangers and serving them a rollicking riff on his many obsessions. Quanta Magazine, "A Life in Games," 28 Aug. 2015 A few years ago, this person had no reasonable method to explore space, but when the rules changed in 2019, this wealthy actor/musician snatched up a round trip ticket having no compunction about putting $50 million down for a week in space. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "A 10-Year Odyssey: What Space Stations Will Look Like in 2030," 10 June 2019 Actor/playwright Trey Tatum, though, had no such compunction about speaking out. David Lyman,, "Love it. Hate it. We all have strong feelings about 'Cats' the musical. Why is that?," 6 June 2019 The message there is that Beard would have no compunction about being like Tom Izzo (or Knight, for that matter), who got called out last week for his very public berating of freshman Aaron Henry during the Spartans’ first-round win over Bradley. Eddie Pells, The Seattle Times, "Texas Tech’s coach spends life on edge, as an underdog," 29 Mar. 2019 Men have never felt compunction about doing this to women. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "When Men Demand Your Attention, It's OK to Ignore Them," 22 Aug. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of compunction

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for 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

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Statistics for compunction

Last Updated

30 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for compunction

The first known use of compunction was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of compunction

: a feeling of guilt or regret

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Comments on compunction

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


to make a temporary encampment

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