Definitions

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

  • n. An uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle that tends to hinder action. See Synonyms at qualm.
  • n. A unit of apothecary weight equal to about 1.3 grams, or 20 grains.
  • n. A minute part or amount.
  • intransitive v. To hesitate as a result of conscience or principle: "A man who could make so vile a pun would not scruple to pick a pocket” ( John Dennis).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A weight of twenty grains; the third part of a dram.
  • n. Hence, a very small quantity; a particle.
  • n. Hesitation as to action from the difficulty of determining what is right or expedient; unwillingness, doubt, or hesitation proceeding from motives of conscience; to consider if something is ethical.
  • n. A doubt or uncertainty concerning a matter of fact; intellectual perplexity.
  • n. A measurement of time. Hebrew culture broke the hour into 1080 scruples.
  • v. To be reluctant or to hesitate, as regards an action, on account of considerations of conscience or expedience.
  • v. To regard with suspicion; to hesitate at; to question.
  • v. To doubt; to question; to hesitate to believe; to question the truth of (a fact, etc.).
  • v. To excite scruples in; to cause to scruple.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A weight of twenty grains; the third part of a dram.
  • n. Hence, a very small quantity; a particle.
  • n. Hesitation as to action from the difficulty of determining what is right or expedient; unwillingness, doubt, or hesitation proceeding from motives of conscience.
  • intransitive v. To be reluctant or to hesitate, as regards an action, on account of considerations of conscience or expedience.
  • transitive v. To regard with suspicion; to hesitate at; to question.
  • transitive v. To excite scruples in; to cause to scruple.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Perplexity, trouble, or uneasiness of conscience; hesitation or reluctance in acting, arising from inability to satisfy conscience, or from the difficulty of determining what is right or expedient; doubt; backwardness in deciding or acting.
  • To have scruples; be reluctant as regards action or decision; hesitate about doing a thing; doubt; especially, to have conscientious doubts.
  • Synonyms Scruple, Hesitate, Waver. We waver through irresolution, and hesitate through fear, if only the fear of making a mistake. Scruple has tended more and more to limitation to a reluctance produced by doubt as to the right or the propriety of the thing proposed.
  • To have scruples about; doubt; hesitate with regard to; question; especially, to have conscientious doubts concerning: chiefly with an infinitive as object (now the only common use).
  • n. A unit of weight, the third part of a dram, being ounce in apothecaries' weight, where alone it is now used by English-speaking people: this is 20 grains (= 1.296 grams).
  • n. A small fraction.
  • n. Eighteen seconds of time.
  • n. One twelfth of an inch; a line.
  • n. One tenth of a geometrical inch.
  • n. A digit; the twelfth part of the sun's or moon's diameter.
  • n. Hence, figuratively
  • n. A small part; a little of anything, chiefly in negative phrases: sometimes confused with scruple.

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

  • v. hesitate on moral grounds
  • n. a unit of apothecary weight equal to 20 grains
  • n. an ethical or moral principle that inhibits action
  • v. raise scruples
  • v. have doubts about
  • n. uneasiness about the fitness of an action

Etymologies

Middle English scrupul, from Old French scrupule, from Latin scrūpulus, small unit of measurement, scruple, diminutive of scrūpus, rough stone, scruple.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin scrūpulus ("uneasiness of mind, trouble, anxiety, doubt, scruple, literally a small sharp or pointed stone, the twenty-fourth part of an ounce"), diminutive of scrūpus ("a rough or sharp stone, anxiety, uneasiness"); perhaps akin to Ancient Greek σκύρος (skuros, "the chippings of stone"), ξυρόν (ksuron, "a razor"), Sanskrit क्षुर (kṣurá, "a razor"): compare French scrupule. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It's interesting to note that the term "scruple" had at least three different definitions—and not all were for weight.

    British Had Too Many But French Have None

  • This absurd scruple is expressed almost in the same words by the continuator of

    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

  • Probole, or Prolatio, which the most orthodox divines borrowed without scruple from the Valentinians, and illustrated by the comparisons of a fountain and stream, the sun and its rays,

    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

  • His Clerk, Nickem, who was afflicted with no such darkness, but who ridiculed the idea of scruple in an attorney, often took part against him.

    The American Senator

  • A scruple is a little sharp stone formerly used as a measure of weight.

    Explanation of Catholic Morals A Concise, Reasoned, and Popular Exposition of Catholic Morals

  • You say that you cannot leave your parish because you fear to give scandal; you fear to pain the poor people, who have been good to you and who have given you money, and your scruple is a noble one; I appreciate and respect it.

    The Lake

  • I heartily wish that the same tenderness of conscience in all things may be seen, which if not, it will hardly be called a scruple of tenderness, but a cavil of malignity.

    The Covenants And The Covenanters Covenants, Sermons, and Documents of the Covenanted Reformation

  • Who has not at moments felt the scruple, which is with us always regarding animal life, following the signs of animation further still, till one almost hesitates to pluck out the little soul of flower or leaf?

    Greek Studies: a Series of Essays

  • That might have been unfair — she remembered how her husband, Claud, had sweated to get Koestler out of jail in Spain, only to be rewarded with apostasy — but in his last two decades Koestler abandoned every kind of scruple and objectivity and became successively bewitched by “theories” of levitation, ESP, telepathy, and UFOs.

    The Zealot

  • But the physicians contrariwise do make a kind of scruple and religion to stay with the patient after the disease is deplored; whereas in my judgment they ought both to inquire the skill, and to give the attendances, for the facilitating and assuaging of the pains and agonies of death.

    The Advancement of Learning

Comments

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  • Reminds me of an old joke: A guy is chatting up a girl in a bar, and after a while he invites her back to his apartment. "Oh, no," the girl says. "I have scruples". "That's okay," the guy says. "I've had my shots."

    April 30, 2008

  • Something that is small--a small irritant that causes anxiety and restrains behavior, or a small unit of measure; original literal meaning was "a small stone"

    July 17, 2007