punc·​til·​i·​ous ˌpəŋk-ˈti-lē-əs How to pronounce punctilious (audio)
: marked by or concerned about precise accordance with the details of codes or conventions
punctiliously adverb
punctiliousness noun

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How Should You Use punctilious?

A punctilio is a small point—a minor rule, or a little detail of conduct in a ceremony. A person who pays close attention to such minor details is punctilious. Punctiliousness can be valuable, especially for certain kinds of tasks, as long as you don't become so concerned about small points that you fail to pay attention to the large ones.

Choose the Right Synonym for punctilious

careful, meticulous, scrupulous, punctilious mean showing close attention to detail.

careful implies attentiveness and cautiousness in avoiding mistakes.

a careful worker

meticulous may imply either commendable extreme carefulness or a hampering finicky caution over small points.

meticulous scholarship

scrupulous applies to what is proper or fitting or ethical.

scrupulous honesty

punctilious implies minute, even excessive attention to fine points.

punctilious observance of ritual

Examples of punctilious in a Sentence

She's very punctilious about grammar. old-money aristocrats with a punctilious sense of propriety
Recent Examples on the Web His punctilious, every-word-counts lyricism makes your head hurt in a good way, like GZA’s Liquid Swords, Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele, and RZA’s Gravediggaz work all congealed in a thrilling sonic stew. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 24 Aug. 2023 As a protocol officer for Mr. Xi, Mr. Qin was exhaustively punctilious, said Pavel Slunkin, who was a Belarusian diplomat involved in arranging a visit by Mr. Xi to Belarus in 2015. David Pierson, New York Times, 26 July 2023 Having attempted to expand the boundaries of cinema with the first Avatar, the notoriously punctilious director hinted the sequel’s prolonged production process was at least partially a product of his technical ambitions and innovations. Vulture, 27 Apr. 2022 The deliberate creative process of Flores and Cázares, which involved heavy research and field study, underscores the punctilious practice of artisanal distillation passed down over generations. Natasha Gural, Forbes, 6 Jan. 2023 Second, there was some objection to punctilious attention to scientific methodology, such as representativeness and sample size. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 23 Apr. 2012 Standouts include 8-year-old Hannon Hatchett as Fritz: Don’t miss his playing punctilious conductor for his fellow tykes with their toy instruments before annoying the party’s girls. Robert Greskovic, WSJ, 7 Dec. 2022 This penchant for punctilious, even occasionally preposterous, perfectionism led to an astronaut corps filled with compulsive checklist-checkers. David Brin, Discover Magazine, 2 Jan. 2013 There is also a more punctilious adherence to institutions among middle class of all stripes. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 13 Feb. 2012 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1617, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of punctilious was in 1617

Dictionary Entries Near punctilious

Cite this Entry

“Punctilious.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/punctilious. Accessed 30 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


punc·​til·​i·​ous ˌpəŋ(k)-ˈtil-ē-əs How to pronounce punctilious (audio)
: following exactly the details of proper ways of behaving
punctiliously adverb
punctiliousness noun

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