scruple

1 of 3

noun (1)

scru·​ple ˈskrü-pəl How to pronounce scruple (audio)
1
: a unit of capacity equal to ¹/₂₄ Apothecaries' ounce see Weights and Measures Table
2
: a minute part or quantity : iota

scruple

2 of 3

noun (2)

1
: an ethical consideration or principle that inhibits action
2
: the quality or state of being scrupulous
3
: mental reservation

scruple

3 of 3

verb

scrupled; scrupling ˈskrü-p(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce scruple (audio)

intransitive verb

1
: to have scruples
2
: to show reluctance on grounds of conscience : hesitate
Choose the Right Synonym for scruple

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 scruple in a Sentence

Noun (1) went about her business without even a scruple of suspicion left just a scruple of asparagus on the plate Noun (2) the survey showed that many students had few scruples about cheating on papers or exams Verb a tabloid journalist who has never scrupled to reveal the most intimate details about the lives of celebrities
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Hilton, not exactly a figure known for journalistic scruples, felt that Enty’s standards on the blog frequently fell short. Lila Shapiro, Vulture, 24 Apr. 2024 Allen’s movies have often displayed an obsession with the nature of evil, a fascination with those who are able to do evil and go on living normally—whose powers of compartmentalization, rationalization, or simple self-righteousness are stronger than their scruples. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 3 Apr. 2024 Moral leadership, moral clarity and moral scruples are centerpieces of civilization, eclipsing economic statistics or military power. Armstrong Williams, Baltimore Sun, 9 Feb. 2024 However, his acquisitive wife, who had no such scruples, accepted in his stead, and this became the Summer White House. Martin Filler, The New York Review of Books, 9 Nov. 2023 By 2006, no one in Lebanon had any illusions about Israel’s attachment to disproportionality and determination to lash out at enemies with few scruples and considerable wrath. Hussein Ibish, The New Republic, 1 Nov. 2023 The defining characteristic of Murdoch’s journalistic empire isn’t so much its extreme conservatism, but its disengagement from anything resembling ethics or scruples or even the consequences of what have often been outright lies. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 21 Sep. 2023 Moral scruples, appeals, and accusations will not deter Putin. Michael Kimmage and Hanna Notte, Foreign Affairs, 1 Sep. 2023 The last thing most new inventors want is to end up with a questionable company with dodgy scruples! Jon Stojan, USA TODAY, 13 July 2023

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English scrupil, scriple, from Anglo-French scruple, from Latin scrupulus a unit of weight, diminutive of scrupus sharp stone

Noun (2)

Middle English scripil, scrupill, from Anglo-French scruble, from Latin scrupulus, diminutive of scrupus source of uneasiness, literally, sharp stone

First Known Use

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1627, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of scruple was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near scruple

Cite this Entry

“Scruple.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scruple. Accessed 25 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

scruple

1 of 3 noun
scru·​ple ˈskrü-pəl How to pronounce scruple (audio)
1
: a unit of capacity equal to ¹⁄₂₄ Apothecaries' ounce see measure
2
: a tiny part or quantity

scruple

2 of 3 noun
1
: a moral consideration or rule of conduct that makes one uneasy or makes action difficult
2
: a sense of guilt felt when one does wrong
acted without scruple

scruple

3 of 3 verb
scrupled; scrupling -p(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce scruple (audio)
: to have scruples
Etymology

Noun

Middle English scriple "a unit of weight," from Latin scrupulus "small sharp stone"

Noun

from early French scrupule "scruple," from Latin scrupulus "scruple, a small sharp stone"

Word Origin
Having a sharp pebble in your shoe can be painful enough to keep you from walking until you remove it. That fact was well known by the ancient Romans, who regularly wore sandals. Scruple comes from the Latin word scrupulus, which originally meant "a small sharp stone." The ancient Romans also used scrupulus to refer to a feeling or thought that might keep a person from doing something that was not quite right. It seemed to them to affect the conscience in the same way that a tiny stone in the shoe would keep a person from being able to walk. This second meaning of scrupulus is the one that still survives in our English word scruple.

Medical Definition

scruple

noun
scru·​ple ˈskrü-pəl How to pronounce scruple (audio)
: a unit of apothecaries' weight equal to 20 grains or ¹/₃ dram or 1.296 grams

More from Merriam-Webster on scruple

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