Word of the Day : October 23, 2010

qualm

play
noun KWAHM

Definition

1 : a sudden attack of illness, faintness, or nausea

2 : a sudden fear

3 : a feeling of doubt or indecision in matters of right and wrong

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.

Test Your Memory: What former Word of the Day refers to a meeting of members of a political party. The answer is ...


Examples

Much to the dismay of those in the music industry, many people have no qualms about illegally downloading music files from the Internet.

"Genetic engineering is already widely used for crops, but the government until now has not considered allowing the consumption of modified animals. Although the potential benefits and profits are huge, many people have qualms about manipulating the genetic code of other living creatures." -- From an Associated Press article by Mary Clare Jalonick, September 21, 2010




Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!