punc·​til·​io | \ ˌpəŋk-ˈti-lē-ˌō How to pronounce punctilio (audio) \
plural punctilios

Definition of punctilio

1 : a minute detail of conduct in a ceremony or in observance of a code
2 : careful observance of forms (as in social conduct)

How Should You Use punctilio?

We'll get straight to the point: there are a number of English words that come from Latin pungere, meaning "to prick" or "to sting." "Punctilio" is one of these words. It traces back to "pungere" by way of Italian puntiglio (meaning "small point," "point of honor," or "scruple"), Spanish puntillo (the diminutive of punto, meaning "point"), and Latin punctum (also meaning "point"). The adjective punctilious, meaning "marked by or concerned about precise accordance with the details of codes or conventions, is a close relative of "punctilio." Do you have any guesses for other "pungere" derivatives? "Punctuate," "puncture," "compunction," "punctual," and "pungent" are some of the more common ones.

First Known Use of punctilio

1596, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for punctilio

Italian & Spanish; Italian puntiglio point of honor, scruple, from Spanish puntillo, from diminutive of punto point, from Latin punctum

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about punctilio

Time Traveler for punctilio

Time Traveler

The first known use of punctilio was in 1596

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about punctilio

Statistics for punctilio

Cite this Entry

“Punctilio.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/punctilio. Accessed 23 January 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on punctilio

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with punctilio

Comments on punctilio

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


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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