Definitions

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

  • n. A strong uneasiness caused by a sense of guilt. See Synonyms at penitence.
  • n. A sting of conscience or a pang of doubt aroused by wrongdoing or the prospect of wrongdoing. See Synonyms at qualm.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A pricking of conscience or a feeling of regret, especially one which is slight or fleeting.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A pricking; stimulation.
  • n. A picking of heart; poignant grief proceeding from a sense of guilt or consciousness of causing pain; the sting of conscience.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A pricking; stimulation; irritation.
  • n. The stinging or pricking of the conscience; uneasiness caused by tenderness of conscience or feelings; regret, as for wrong-doing or for giving pain to another; contrition; remorse.
  • n. Synonyms Regret, Remorse, etc. See penitence.

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

  • n. a feeling of deep regret (usually for some misdeed)

Etymologies

Middle English compunccioun, from Old French componction, from Late Latin compūnctiō, compūnctiōn-, puncture, sting of conscience, from Latin compūnctus, past participle of compungere, to sting : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + pungere, to prick; see peuk- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, from Old French, derived from Late Latin, compunctionem (a pricking), from Latin compunctus, the past participle of compungere (to severely prick), from com- + pungere (to prick). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Notwithstanding all these arguments a compunction was always present in Miss Eelen's worn out yet not extinguished heart.

    Kirsteen: The Story of a Scotch Family Seventy Years Ago

  • Apart from Thierry Henry, whose handball helped France pinch the ticket to South Africa from Ireland's pockets, none of the greats really showed remorse, though one will never know whether they actually felt something called compunction in their private hours.

    The Times of India

  • The reasons for cutting off funding don't so much involve "compunction" as whether the department has to fund sixth- and seventh-year students in order to meet the teaching expectations of the university.

    Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be PhDs!

  • Terry's has been looking at the deeds of his own past life and is feeling "compunction", the sting of guilt.

    Compunction

  • She said at last while Andy, with a kind of compunction in his silence, waited:

    The Glass Slipper

  • Lady Winsleigh studied the lovely face, eloquent with love and truth, for some moments in silence; -- a kind of compunction pricked her conscience.

    Thelma

  • In West End drawing-rooms his personal gift had begun to tell no less than in this crowded, squalid East; and as his aims became known, other men, finding the thoughts of their own hearts revealed in him, or touched with that social compunction which is one of the notes of our time, came down and became his helpers.

    Robert Elsmere

  • That rare possibility of self-contemplation which comes in any complete severance from our wonted life made her judge herself as she had never done before: the compunction which is inseparable from a sympathetic nature keenly alive to the possible experience of others, began to stir in her with growing force.

    Romola

  • I hope he doesn't expect conservatives to understand what 'compunction' means ...

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • Falcon, who has a nine-month old baby and a marriage also in its infancy, said he's humbled by the initial signs of encouragement but doesn't feel any "compunction" to rush.

    canada.com Top Stories

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