1 : a minute detail of conduct in a ceremony or in observance of a code
2 : careful observance of forms (as in social conduct)
Did You Know?
We'll get straight to the point: there are a number of English words that come from Latin pungere, meaning "to prick" or "to sting." Punctilio is one of these words. It traces back to pungere by way of Italian puntiglio (meaning "small point," "point of honor," or "scruple"), Spanish puntillo (the diminutive of punto, meaning "point"), and Latin punctum (also meaning "point"). The adjective punctilious, meaning "marked by or concerned about precise accordance with the details of codes or conventions," is a close relative of punctilio. Do you have any guesses for other pungere derivatives? Punctuate, puncture, compunction, punctual, and pungent are some of the more common ones.
"It is hard to write a novel in a Christian setting in such a secular age; 'The End of the Affair' manages to make even the punctilios of Catholic doctrine feel profoundly relevant." — Alex Preston, The Independent, 17 Feb. 2012
"At picnics, lawn-parties, little country gatherings of all sorts, she was, in her own quiet, natural manner, always the presiding spirit of general comfort and general friendship. Even the rigid laws of country punctilio relaxed before her unaffected cheerfulness and irresistible good-nature." — Wilkie Collins, Basil, 1852
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
Fill in the blanks to complete an adjective derived from Latin pungere that means "painfully affecting the feelings": p _ i _ n _ _ t.VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP