\ ˈkwäm How to pronounce qualm (audio) also ˈkwȯm or ˈkwälm How to pronounce qualm (audio) \

Definition of qualm

1 : 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
2 : 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
3 : a sudden attack of illness, faintness, or nausea The doctor seemed seized with a qualm of faintness.— Robert Louis Stevenson

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Other Words from qualm

qualmy \ ˈkwä-​mē also  ˈkwȯ-​ or  ˈkwäl-​ How to pronounce qualmy (audio) \ adjective

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

Did You Know?

Etymologists aren't sure where qualm originated, but they do know it entered English around 1530. Originally, it referred to a sudden sick feeling. Robert Louis Stevenson made use of this older sense in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: A qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most deadly shuddering. Soon after qualm entered the language, it came to designate not only sudden attacks of illness, but also sudden attacks of emotion or principle. In The Sketch Book, for example, Washington Irving wrote, Immediately after one of these fits of extravagance, he will be taken with violent qualms of economy.... Eventually, qualm took on the specific (and now most common) meaning of doubt or uneasiness, particularly in not following one's conscience or better judgment.

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 Tonight: Listen to a friend’s qualms about a personal matter. BostonGlobe.com, "Horoscope," 20 May 2020 McGovern proposed several technological innovations, but ran into qualms from traditionalists and technophobes in both parties. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Congress mirrors a divided America on reopening amid coronavirus crisis," 3 May 2020 Our chief soccer correspondent explores the qualms. Isabella Kwai, New York Times, "Coronavirus, Italy, Kim Jong-un: Your Monday Briefing," 27 Apr. 2020 In a post shared on Instagram, Kerman introduces the world to Dylan, a young man with an impeccable sense of fashion and absolutely no qualms about outshining his host. Melissa Locker, Time, "History Buff Special Guest Upstages a Rock Musician During a Live Interview," 22 Apr. 2020 Fracking, a hot debate topic on Wednesday, also adds to qualms about the sector. Anne Sraders, Fortune, "Investors shouldn’t underestimate election volatility, warns UBS," 23 Feb. 2020 Similar qualms haunt the chapter on China’s form of capitalism as a competitor to America’s. Joseph C. Sternberg, WSJ, "‘Capitalism, Alone’ Review: Inclined Toward Inequality," 20 Jan. 2020 Any qualms political opponents may have about putative ideological differences are firmly quashed by the potential for patronage or self-enrichment a seat in the cabinet affords. The Economist, "Why Indonesia’s president has made his arch-rival a minister," 24 Oct. 2019 My only qualm is that the dictatorial villain, Captain Queeg, may foil your escape by reminding you of an actual present-day American boogeyman with a five-letter surname. Washington Post, "Here are some of my favorite escapist novels. You may have other ideas. Share them with us.," 30 Apr. 2020

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

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First Known Use of qualm

circa 1530, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for qualm

origin unknown

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Time Traveler for qualm

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The first known use of qualm was circa 1530

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Last Updated

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Qualm.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/qualm. Accessed 31 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for qualm


How to pronounce qualm (audio) How to pronounce qualm (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of qualm

: a feeling of doubt or uncertainty about whether you are doing the right thing


\ ˈkwäm How to pronounce qualm (audio) , ˈkwälm \

Kids Definition of qualm

: a feeling of doubt or uncertainty especially in matters of right and wrong She had no qualms about lying.

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More from Merriam-Webster on qualm

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for qualm

Spanish Central: Translation of qualm

Nglish: Translation of qualm for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of qualm for Arabic Speakers

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