Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A sudden feeling of sickness, faintness, or nausea.
  • n. A sudden disturbing feeling: qualms of homesickness.
  • n. An uneasy feeling about the propriety or rightness of a course of action.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Mortality; plague; pestilence.
  • n. A calamity or disaster.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Sickness; disease; pestilence; death.
  • n. A sudden attack of illness, faintness, or pain; an agony.
  • n. Especially, a sudden sensation of nausea.
  • n. A prick or scruple of conscience; uneasiness of conscience; compunction.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To be sick; suffer from qualms.
  • To cause pain or qualms.
  • n. Illness; disease; pestilence; plague.
  • n. A sudden attack of illness; a turn of faintness or suffering; a throe or throb of pain.
  • n. Especially, a sudden fit or seizure of sickness at the stomach; a sensation of nausea.
  • n. A scruple or twinge of conscience; compunction; uneasiness.
  • n. The boding cry of a raven.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. uneasiness about the fitness of an action
  • n. a mild state of nausea

Etymologies

Origin unknown.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English qualm, cwalm ("death, sickness, plague"), from Old English cwealm (West Saxon: "death, disaster, plague"), ūtcualm (Anglian: "utter destruction"), from Proto-Germanic *kwalmaz (“killing, death, destruction”), from Proto-Indo-European *gʷel- (“to stick, pierce; pain, injury, death”). Related to cwelan ("to die,") cwellan ("to kill"). The other suggested etymology, less satisfying, is from Dutch kwalm "steam, vapor, mist," which also may be ultimately from the same Germanic root as quell. Sense softened to "feeling of faintness" 1530; meaning "uneasiness, doubt" is from 1553; that of "scruple of conscience" is 1649. An indirect connection between the Old English and modern senses is plausible, via the notion of "fit of sickness." (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • You will be amused when you see that I have more than once deceived without the slightest qualm of conscience, both knaves and fools.
    (Giacomo Casanova)

    March 18, 2008

  • German for 'fog/murk'.

    January 9, 2008

  • I have my qualms about that particular use...

    April 5, 2007

  • I wonder...can you have just *one* qualm or do you have to have several? ;-)

    April 5, 2007