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>
compunctiousplay \-shəs\ adjective
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.
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
First Known Use: 14th century
Synonym Discussion of compunction
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
Definition of compunction for English Language Learners
: a feeling of guilt or regret ( chiefly US )
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