From Middle English compunccion, borrowed from Old French compunction, from Late Latin compunctionem (a pricking), from Latin compunctus, the past participle of compungere (to severely prick), from com- + pungere (to prick).


  • IPA(key): /kəmˈpʌŋk.ʃən/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌŋkʃən


compunction (countable and uncountable, plural compunctions)

  1. A pricking of conscience or a feeling of regret, especially one which is slight or fleeting.
    Synonyms: qualm, regret, remorse; see also Thesaurus:remorse
    • 1855 December – 1857 June, Charles Dickens, “Something Right Somewhere”, in Little Dorrit, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1857, OCLC 83401042, book the second (Riches), page 366:
      [H]e would have had no compunction whatever in flinging him out of the highest window in Venice into the deepest water of the city.
    • 1897, Bram Stoker, “Jonathan Harker’s Journal—Continued”, in Dracula, New York, N.Y.: Modern Library, OCLC 688657546, page 36:
      [T]he instant the door had closed behind him, I leaned over and looked at the letters, which were face down on the table. I felt no compunction in doing so, for under the circumstances I felt that I should protect myself in every way I could.
    • 1920 November 9, D[avid] H[erbert] Lawrence, chapter VIII, in Women in Love, New York, N.Y.: Privately printed [by Thomas Seltzer] for subscribers only, OCLC 2883166, page 112:
      But he felt, later, a little compunction. He had been violent, cruel with poor Hermione. He wanted to recompense her, to make it up.
    • 2003 February 16, Blaine Greteman, "No Peace Dividend," Time:
      As for average U.S. consumers, they've shown little compunction about buying diamonds that fund bloody militias in Africa.


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