scru·​pu·​lous ˈskrü-pyə-ləs How to pronounce scrupulous (audio)
: having moral integrity : acting in strict regard for what is considered right or proper
: punctiliously exact : painstaking
working with scrupulous care
scrupulously adverb
scrupulousness noun

Did you know?

People described as “scrupulous” might feel discomfort in anything that challenges their moral sensibilities. Such challenges might present a nagging feeling, much as a sharp pebble in a shoe might nag a walker intent on getting somewhere. And we are getting somewhere. The origin of scrupulous is founded in just such a pebble. Scrupulous and its close relative scruple (“a feeling that prevents you from doing something that you think is wrong”) both come from the Latin noun scrupulus, “a small sharp stone,” the diminutive of scrupus, “a sharp stone.” Scrupus has a metaphorical meaning too: “a source of anxiety or uneasiness.” When the adjective scrupulous entered the English language in the 15th century, it meant “principled,” as in “having moral integrity,” but it now also commonly means “painstaking” or “careful.”

Choose the Right Synonym for scrupulous

upright, honest, just, conscientious, scrupulous, honorable mean having or showing a strict regard for what is morally right.

upright implies a strict adherence to moral principles.

a stern and upright minister

honest stresses adherence to such virtues as truthfulness, candor, or fairness.

known for being honest in business dealings

just stresses conscious choice and regular practice of what is right or equitable.

workers given just compensation

conscientious and scrupulous imply an active moral sense governing all one's actions and painstaking efforts to follow one's conscience.

conscientious in the completion of her assignments
scrupulous in carrying out the terms of the will

honorable suggests a firm holding to codes of right behavior and the guidance of a high sense of honor and duty.

a difficult but honorable decision

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

Example Sentences

While many assume that a conservative reading of the Constitution will lead inevitably to a conservative interpretation, Amar has argued, in scholarly articles and in a previous book, "The Bill of Rights," that paying scrupulous attention to the text, history and structure of the Constitution often reveals support for liberal outcomes. James Ryerson, New York Times Book Review, 6 Nov. 2005
Most clients praise the lawyer effusively. Rubenstein declares that Grubman never represents both parties in any one matter, is scrupulous in disclosing his relations to all his clients and abides by the conflict rules of the legal profession. Johnnie L. Roberts, Newsweek, 6 Aug. 2001
Tax-shelter proliferation has reached such epidemic proportions that it has actually spurred a backlash among the more conscientious members of the tax profession. A few scrupulous tax lawyers have anonymously leaked details of shelter schemes to the IRS. Franklin Foer, New Republic, 5 June 2000
She was always scrupulous about her work. The work requires scrupulous attention to detail. Less scrupulous companies find ways to evade the law. See More
Recent Examples on the Web And where the play pays scrupulous attention to the in-room dynamics, the outside world seems smeared with broad strokes. Helen Shaw, Vulture, 26 Jan. 2022 Companies that have voluntarily joined IGSC and adopted its biosecurity screening standards, which add time and costs, face a competitive disadvantage against less scrupulous DNA synthesizers, according to a 2015 report authored by science policy analysts at the J. Craig Venter Institute. Megan Molteni, STAT, 23 May 2021 My intuitions were flawlessly scrupulous, but my emotions, unfortunately, were unstable. Dana Givens, Robb Report, 3 Feb. 2023 Crow insisted that Reed was scrupulous. Los Angeles Times, 23 Oct. 2021 Panovka contends that, though Arendt was not known as the most scrupulous with the facts, twenty-first-century readers should pay close attention to her idiosyncratic word choices and the particular political ethos of her time before making sweeping claims about her relevance today. Rebecca Panovka, Harper's Magazine, 18 Aug. 2021 The scrupulous archive research by Newnham and her team churns up footage of Hite parrying with (almost always male) critics of her findings, who refused to believe their own wives, mothers and daughters could be so wanton. Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Jan. 2023 The Tony Awards celebrate an industry that has been so careful, so scrupulous about COVID protections by maintaining a mask mandate for its audience after the rest of the city got loose. Jackson Mchenry, Vulture, 13 June 2022 Schuff was consistently considered the more cautious and scrupulous of the two, whereas Gauguin appeared impulsive and spontaneous. Alexandra Bregman, Forbes, 31 Dec. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Latin scrupulosus, from scrupulus — see scruple entry 2

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of scrupulous was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near scrupulous

Cite this Entry

“Scrupulous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


scru·​pu·​lous ˈskrü-pyə-ləs How to pronounce scrupulous (audio)
: full of or having scruples : strict
: being very exact : painstaking
working with scrupulous care
scrupulously adverb
scrupulousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on scrupulous

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