adjective poi·gnant \ ˈpȯi-nyənt , sometimes ˈpȯi(g)-nənt \
|Updated on: 13 Jul 2018

Definition of poignant

1 : pungently pervasive
  • a poignant perfume
2 a (1) : painfully affecting the feelings : piercing
(2) : deeply affecting : touching
b : designed to make an impression : cutting
  • poignant satire
3 a : pleasurably stimulating
b : being to the point : apt



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Examples of poignant in a Sentence

  1. … this movie isn't a soft-pedaled, poignant tale of addiction and recovery—it's just about the addiction. —David CrowleyVibeJune 2001
  2. 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 RosenNew Republic25 Dec. 2000
  3. 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 LamarUTNE ReaderMay/June 1992
  4. … a new and sharper and most poignant sense of loss for that broken musical instrument which had once been my leg. —Oliver SacksA Leg to Stand On1984
  5. The photograph was a poignant reminder of her childhood.

  6. a poignant story of a love affair that ends in tragedy

Recent Examples of poignant from the Web

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

Did You Know?

Poignant comes to us 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, among other things, to 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.

Origin and Etymology of poignant

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

POIGNANT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of poignant for English Language Learners

  • : causing a strong feeling of sadness

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to beat or defeat soundly

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