Word of the Day : June 3, 2020

compunction

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noun kum-PUNK-shun

Definition

1 a : anxiety arising from awareness of guilt

b : distress of mind over an anticipated action or result

2 : a twinge of misgiving : scruple

Did You Know?

An old proverb says "a guilty conscience needs no accuser," and it's true that the sting of a guilty conscience—or a conscience that is provoked by the contemplation of doing something wrong—can prick very hard indeed. The sudden guilty "prickings" of compunction are reflected in the word's etymological history. Compunction comes (via Anglo-French compunction and Middle English compunccioun) from Latin compungere, which means "to prick hard" or "to sting." Compungere, in turn, derives from pungere, meaning "to prick," which is the ancestor of some other prickly words in English, such as puncture and even point.


Examples

"A big reason why Illinois' population continues to plummet is that college-age youth feel no compunction at all about heading out of state for college." — editorial board, The Chicago Tribune, 22 Feb. 2020

"Roses can get old and sick, and there are better varieties to try. I have no compunction ripping out a rose that no longer works for me." — Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2020



Word Family Quiz

What English relative of Latin pungere, meaning "to prick," begins with "p" and can mean "deeply affecting" or "being to the point"?

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