ˈkwäm How to pronounce qualm (audio)
 also  ˈkwȯm,
ˈkwälm How to pronounce qualm (audio)
: a feeling of uneasiness about a point especially of conscience or propriety
had no qualms about asking for their help
It was about an enduring secular world where people did unspeakable things, seemingly without qualm and without any grave consequences to themselves.Jim Holt
: a sudden feeling of usually disturbing emotion (such as doubt or fear)
I had a qualm of absolute horror, and shuddered; and then the emotion was immediately repressed or suppressed.Oliver Sacks
: a sudden attack of illness, faintness, or nausea
The doctor seemed seized with a qualm of faintness.Robert Louis Stevenson
ˈkwä-mē How to pronounce qualm (audio)
 also  ˈkwȯ-
 or  ˈkwäl-

Did you know?

Etymologists are not sure how qualm came to be, but early use of the word is for a sudden sick feeling. It then was used for a sudden attack of emotion. Today, qualm usually refers to a feeling of uneasiness, particularly in not following one's conscience or better judgment.

Choose the Right Synonym for qualm

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

Examples of qualm in a Sentence

He accepted their offer without a qualm. she has no qualms about downloading pirated music files from the Internet
Recent Examples on the Web Meanwhile, Rebecca's daughter Gracie expressed qualms about Benjamin's ability to reassure her mother after his reservations about her confidence levels. Alexandra Koster, refinery29.com, 20 Nov. 2023 Unless Republican messaging on this issue is altered, despite the understandable moral qualms in doing so, Team Red is in for a world of hurt. Noah Rothman, National Review, 8 Nov. 2023 But that trust in his own intuition may have made Son unwilling to heed red flags, opposition from his advisers and even qualms raised by Neumann himself, according to former officials from both SoftBank and WeWork. Min Jeong Lee, Fortune, 7 Nov. 2023 There’s your brother’s bullying, contemptuous reaction to your (extremely reasonable) qualms — which suggests, regrettably, that he’s picked up a few behavior tips from your dad. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 29 Oct. 2023 But Stone has delved into his present-day qualms on 66689 BLVD, a 10-track confessional. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 15 Sep. 2023 Even with the elation of top officials, some residents have qualms about what the massive project might bring. Erin Cox, Washington Post, 11 Nov. 2023 But before that, SBF was a massive political donor—and apparently had no qualms about wielding that influence. Tori Otten, The New Republic, 2 Oct. 2023 Few writers have written about moral qualms with such sensitivity. Heller McAlpin, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

circa 1530, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of qualm was circa 1530


Dictionary Entries Near qualm

Cite this Entry

“Qualm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/qualm. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


ˈkwäm How to pronounce qualm (audio) ˈkwälm How to pronounce qualm (audio)
 also  ˈkwȯm
: a sudden attack of illness, faintness, or nausea
: a sudden fear
: a feeling of doubt or indecision in matters of right and wrong
had qualms about coming home late

More from Merriam-Webster on qualm

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