From Old French scrupule, from Latin scrūpulus ((literally) a small sharp or pointed stone; the twenty-fourth part of an ounce; uneasiness of mind, anxiety, doubt, trouble; scruple), diminutive of scrūpus (a rough or sharp stone; anxiety, uneasiness); perhaps akin to Ancient Greek σκύρος (skúros, the chippings of stone), from ξυρόν (xurón, razor), from ξύω (xúō, to scrape), from Proto-Indo-European *ksunyo-.



scruple (plural scruples)

  1. Hesitation to act from the difficulty of determining what is right or expedient; doubt, hesitation or unwillingness due to motives of conscience.
    • 1609, Geo[rge] Chapman, “Conclusio”, in Evthymiæ Raptvs; or The Teares of Peace: With Interlocutions, London: Printed by H. L. for Rich[ard] Bonian, and H. Walley, and are to be solde at the spread-eagle, neere the great North-door of S. Pauls Church, OCLC 53703972:
      Before her flew Affliction, girt in ſtorms, / Gaſht all with guſhing wounds; and all the formes / Of bane, and miſerie, frowning in her face; / Whom Tyrannie, and Iniuſtice, had in Chace; / Grimme Perſecution, Pouertie, and Shame; / Detraction, Enuie, foule Mishap and lame; / Scruple of Conſcience; Feare, Deceipt, Deſpaire; / Slaunder, and Clamor, that rent all the Ayre; []
    • 1837, David Jardine, A Reading on the Use of Torture in the Criminal Law of England previously to the Commonwealth; Delivered at New Inn Hall in Michaelmas Term, 1836, by Appointment of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, London: Baldwin and Cradock, OCLC 156119483, page 16:
      [U]ntil the Commonwealth [of England] torture was constantly used as an instrument of evidence in the investigation of offences, whether municipal or political, without scruple, and without question as to its legality.
    • 1857, Thomas Babington Macaulay, “John Bunyan”, in Biographical Essays. [...] Frederic the Great.—Bunyan.—Goldsmith.—Johnson.—Barère (Collection of British Authors; CCCCV), Tauchniz edition, Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchniz, OCLC 909866528, page 99:
      The four chief sins of which he was guilty were dancing, ringing the bells of the parish church, playing at tipcat, and reading the History of Sir Bevis of Southampton. A Rector of the school of [William] Laud would have held such a young man up to the whole parish as a model. But [John] Bunyan's notions of good and evil had been learned in a very different school; and he was made miserable by the conflict between his tastes and his scruples.
    • 1942, Julius J. Epstein; Philip G. Epstein; Howard Koch, Casablanca, spoken by Captain Renault (Claude Rains):
      Ricky, I'm going to miss you. Apparently you're the only one in Casablanca with less scruples than I.
  2. (pharmacy) A weight of 1288 of a pound, that is, twenty grains or one third of a dram, about 1.3 grams (symbol: ).
    Synonym: (abbreviation) s.ap.
    • 1580, Leonardo Fioravanti; John Hester, transl., “To Make Oyle of Frankensence”, in A Short Discours of the Excellent Doctour and Knight, Maister Leonardo Phioravanti Bolognese vppon Chirurgerie. With a Declaration of Many Thinges, Necessarie to be Knowne, neuer Written before in this Order: Whereunto is Added a Number of Notable Secretes, Found out by the saide Author. Translated out of Italyan into English, by Iohn Hester, Practicioner in the Arte of Distillation, London: Imprinted at London by Thomas East, OCLC 309029869, folio 17, recto:
      The Oyle ſerueth in many operations, and ſpecially in all colde diſeaſes, if they be inwardly, give thereof euerye morning one ſcruple to drinke, and if they be outward annoynt.
    • 1725, [Noël] Chomel, “BEZOAR-STONE”, in R[ichard] Bradley, editor, Dictionaire Oeconomique: Or, The Family Dictionary. [], in Two Volumes, [], volume I (A–H), London: [] D. Midwinter, [], OCLC 991191027:
      Bezoar (Horſe) called Hypolites, excites Sweat, reſiſts Poiſon, kills the Worms, and ſtops a Looſeneſs; the Doſe is from half a Scruple to two Scruples.
  3. A Hebrew unit of time equal to 11080 hour.
    • 1704, Giles Strauchius [i.e., Aegidius Strauch II]; Richard Sault, transl., “Of Minutes, Scruples and Moments”, in Breviarium Chronologicum. Or A Treatise Describing the Terms and Most Celebrated Characters, Periods and Epocha’s Used in Chronology. By Giles Strauchius, D.D. and Publick Professor in the University of Wittebergh. Now Done into English from the Third Edition, in Latin. By Richard Sault, F.R.S., 2nd corrected edition, London: Printed for A. Bosvile at the Dial and Bible against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet-street, OCLC 912637911, book I (Of some Terms in Chronology, and those the Most Common), § 3, page 8:
      If it be ask'd why the Jews divide the Hour into 1080 Scruples, the Author of the Neomeniæ ſet forth by Munſter gives this reaſon fo it, becauſe there is no number that is diviſible into ſo many ſorts as this of 1080 is; for it may be divided by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, &c.
    • [1812, Thomas Watson, “Chronology”, in An Useful Compendium of Many Important and Curious Branches of Science and General Knowledge, Digested, Principally, in Plain and Instructive Tables, to which are Added, some Rational Recreations in Numbers, with Easy and Expeditious Methods of Constructing Magic Squares, and Specimens of Some in the Higher Class, London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, Paternoster Row; C. Law, Ave-Maria Lane; by and for R. Rodgers, Whitby, OCLC 892308771, section 4 (The Mahometan Year), page 38:
      The Mahometan year consists of 12 lunar months, each containing 29 days, 12 hours and 792 scruples; (1080 scruples = 1 hour) so that the year contains 354 days, 8 hours and 864 scruples.]
    • 1864 July 23, George Greenwood, “East of the Jordan”, in The Athenæum: Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, number 1917, London: Printed by James Holmes, Took's Court, Chancery Lane, published at the office, 20, Wellington Street, Strand, W.C., by John Francis. [...], OCLC 956082422, page 116, column 1:
      The most ancient hour was divided into 1,080 scruples. The Jews suppose Issachar to have brought it from heaven.
  4. (obsolete, by extension) A very small quantity; a particle.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:modicum
  5. (obsolete) A doubt or uncertainty concerning a matter of fact; intellectual perplexity.
    • 1676, William Okeley, “Sect. VIII. The Contrivance for Our Escape, the Persons Acquainted with It, and also Those that were Engaged in it; Some Debates about Leaving My Patron.”, in Eben-ezer: Or, A Small Monument of Great Mercy, Appearing in the Miraculous Deliverance of William Okeley, William Adams, John Anthony, John Jephs, John— Carpenter, from the Miserable Slavery of Algiers, [...], London: Printed for Nat[haniel] Ponder, at the sign of the Peacock in the Poultry near Corn-hill, and in Chancery-Lane near Fleetstreet, OCLC 81479015, page 46:
      There aroſe a Scruple, nay, it amount to a Queſtion, whether to attempt an Eſcape from my Patron, one that ſo dearly Loved me, ſo fairly bought me, were juſtifiable before God and Men?

Derived termsEdit



scruple (third-person singular simple present scruples, present participle scrupling, simple past and past participle scrupled)

  1. (intransitive) To hesitate or be reluctant to act due to considerations of conscience or expedience.
    • 1672, Robert South, “A True State and Account of the Plea of a Tender Conscience. In a Sermon Preach’d at Christ-Church, Oxon. before the University, in Michaelmas Term, 1672”, in Twelve Sermons upon Several Subjects and Occasions, volume III, 5th edition, London: Printed by H. Clark, for Jonah Bowyer, at the Rose, the West-End of St. Paul's Church-Yard, published 1722, OCLC 731567810, page 206:
      But the Tenderneſs, we have to deal with, is quite of another Nature, being ſuch as one as makes Men ſcruple at the Lawfulneſs of a Set Form of Divine Worship, at the Uſe of ſome Solemn Rites and Ceremonies in the Service of God; but makes them not ſtick at all at Sacrilege, which St. Paul equates to Idolatry; []
    • 1830 October 23, [Thomas] Fuller, “Good Thoughts in Bad Times”, in W. T. Brantly, editor, The Columbian Star and Christian Index, volume III, number 17, Philadelphia, Pa.: Printed by Martin & Boden, no. 204 Market Street, OCLC 699739666, page 263, column 2:
      On the day wherein we receive the sacrament, we are often over-precise, scrupling to say or do those things which lawfully we may. But we, who are more than curious that day, are not so much as careful the next; and too often (what shall I say?) go on in sin up to the ancles; yea, our sins go over our heads.
  2. (intransitive) To excite scruples in; to cause to scruple.
    • 1648, Edw[ard] Symmons, “Sect. IV. 1. The Nature of Their Charge Opened. 2. Their Vilanous and Bloudy Scope therein, Clearely Evidenced, and Proved. 3. How Perfectly in Their Tenents They Hold with the Jesuites in the Points of King-killing and King-deposing, Fully Declared.”, in A Vindication of King Charles: Or, a Loyal Subjects Duty. Manifested in Vindicating His Soveraigne from those Aspersions Cast upon Him by Certaine Persons, in a Scandalous Libel, Entituled, The Kings Cabinet Opened: And Published (as They Say) by Authority of Parliament. Whereunto is Added, a True Parallel betwixt the Sufferings of Our Saviour and Our Soveraign, in Divers Particulars, &c., [London?: s.n.], OCLC 839300790, page 37:
      It is granted indeed before that time, the Supream power was in Him [Charles I of England], and we were all his Subjects: and then perhaps ſome might Scruple to cut his throat, for there were lawes then in force against Regicides, but now ſince his Reſignation, (for ſo in our Tenents we hold this Act to be,) there is no ſcruple to be made, thoſe lawes against King-killers are ſuſpended, and he is now become as Samſon was without his ſtrength, []
  3. (transitive) To regard with suspicion; to question.
    • 1644, John Milton, Areopagitica; a Speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Vnlicenc’d Printing, to the Parliament of England, London: [s.n.], OCLC 606676387, page 7:
      As for the writings of Heathen authors, unleſſe they were plaine invectives againſt Chriſtianity, as thoſe of Porphyrius and Proclus, they met with no interdict that can be cited, till about the year 400, in a Carthaginian Councel, wherein Biſhops themſelves were forbid to read the Books of Gentiles, but Hereſies they might read: while others long before them on the contrary ſcrupl'd more the Books of Hereticks, then of Gentiles.
    • 1778, Edmund Calamy, “Introduction”, in Samuel Palmer, editor, The Nonconformist’s Memorial: Being an Account of the Ministers, who were Ejected or Silenced after the Restoration, Particularly by the Act of Uniformity, which Took Place on Bartholomew-day, Aug. 24, 1662. Containing a Concise View of Their Lives and Characters, Their Principles, Sufferings, and Printed Works, [...], volume I, 2nd edition, London: Printed for Alex[ande]r Hogg, and No. 16, Pater Noster-Row, OCLC 723163394, § 4 (The Act of Uniformity; and Reflections upon It), page 50:
      And notwithſtanding all the clamours of their inſulting brethren, they were ſatisfied that thoſe who were moſt forward for this declaration [that it was unlawful to take arms against the king], and moſt fierce in condemning thoſe who ſcrupled it, would not keep to it, if at any time they found things were come to extremity, as the event verified.
  4. (intransitive, obsolete) To question the truth of (a fact, etc.); to doubt; to hesitate to believe, to question.
    I do not scruple to admit that all the Earth seeth but only half of the Moon.


Further readingEdit