poi·​gnant ˈpȯi-nyənt How to pronounce poignant (audio)
 sometimes  ˈpȯi(g)-nənt
: painfully affecting the feelings : piercing
: deeply affecting : touching
: designed to make an impression : cutting
poignant satire
: pleasurably stimulating
: being to the point : apt
: pungently pervasive
a poignant perfume
poignantly adverb

Did you know?

Poignant comes to English from French, and before that from Latin—specifically, the Latin verb pungere, meaning "to prick or sting." Several other common English words derive from pungere, including pungent, which can refer to, among other things, a sharp odor. The influence of pungere can also be seen in puncture, as well as punctual, which originally meant simply "of or relating to a point." Even compunction and expunge come from this pointedly relevant Latin word.

Choose the Right Synonym for poignant

pungent, piquant, poignant, racy mean sharp and stimulating to the mind or the senses.

pungent implies a sharp, stinging, or biting quality especially of odors.

a cheese with a pungent odor

piquant suggests a power to whet the appetite or interest through tartness or mild pungency.

a piquant sauce

poignant suggests something is sharply or piercingly effective in stirring one's emotions.

felt a poignant sense of loss

racy implies having a strongly characteristic natural quality fresh and unimpaired.

spontaneous, racy prose

moving, impressive, poignant, affecting, touching, pathetic mean having the power to produce deep emotion.

moving may apply to any strong emotional effect including thrilling, agitating, saddening, or calling forth pity or sympathy.

a moving appeal for contributions

impressive implies compelling attention, admiration, wonder, or conviction.

an impressive list of achievements

poignant applies to what keenly or sharply affects one's sensitivities.

a poignant documentary on the homeless

affecting is close to moving but most often suggests pathos.

an affecting deathbed reunion

touching implies arousing tenderness or compassion.

the touching innocence in a child's eyes

pathetic implies moving to pity or sometimes contempt.

pathetic attempts to justify misconduct

Examples of poignant in a Sentence

… this movie isn't a soft-pedaled, poignant tale of addiction and recovery—it's just about the addiction. David Crowley, Vibe, June 2001
In a poignant attempt to split the difference between the two camps, Justices Breyer and David Souter tried to prevent the Court from destroying itself. Jeffrey Rosen, New Republic, 25 Dec. 2000
I've witnessed the poignant efforts of young whites striving to conform to the vague tenets of the mainstream, taking crushingly dull jobs, settling down with the least challenging of spouses … Jake Lamar, UTNE Reader, May/June 1992
… a new and sharper and most poignant sense of loss for that broken musical instrument which had once been my leg. Oliver Sacks, A Leg to Stand On, 1984
The photograph was a poignant reminder of her childhood. a poignant story of a love affair that ends in tragedy
Recent Examples on the Web That history is particularly poignant in Charleston, where ships once docked with hundreds of kidnapped Africans onboard, and where community leaders like Mr. Lee have spent years fighting to protect the graveyards of enslaved people. Emily Cochrane Caroline Gutman, New York Times, 11 Apr. 2024 Fox’s friendship with Chappel is perhaps the most poignant story line in the series. Sarah Larson, The New Yorker, 2 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for poignant 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'poignant.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English poynaunt, from Anglo-French poinant, poignant, present participle of poindre to prick, sting, from Latin pungere — more at pungent

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of poignant was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near poignant

Cite this Entry

“Poignant.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poignant. Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


poi·​gnant ˈpȯi-nyənt How to pronounce poignant (audio)
: painfully affecting the feelings : sharp, piercing
poignant grief
: deeply affecting : touching
poignantly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on poignant

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