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[poin-yuh nt, poi-nuh nt] /ˈpɔɪn yənt, ˈpɔɪ nənt/
keenly distressing to the feelings:
poignant regret.
keen or strong in mental appeal:
a subject of poignant interest.
affecting or moving the emotions:
a poignant scene.
pungent to the smell:
poignant cooking odors.
Origin of poignant
1350-1400; Middle English poynaunt < Middle French poignant, present participle of poindre < Latin pungere to prick, pierce. See pungent, -ant
Related forms
poignantly, adverb
unpoignant, adjective
unpoignantly, adverb
1. intense, sincere, heartfelt. 4. piquant, sharp.
1, 2. mild. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for poignantly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She missed him poignantly, with all the force of her protecting passion.

    The Secret Agent Joseph Conrad
  • Shame, misery, hopelessness—he did not know which emotion was stinging him most poignantly.

    Blow The Man Down Holman Day
  • I don't suppose you understand, but when you feel things as poignantly as I do, almost anything is like the guillotine.

    The Second Fiddle Phyllis Bottome
  • Not for a long time had he "felt his poem," as he called this sensation, so poignantly.

    The Octopus Frank Norris
  • She could not have said wherefore, but she was sorry for Monck—deeply, poignantly sorry.

    The Lamp in the Desert Ethel M. Dell
British Dictionary definitions for poignantly


/ˈpɔɪnjənt; -nənt/
sharply distressing or painful to the feelings
to the point; cutting or piercing: poignant wit
keen or pertinent in mental appeal: a poignant subject
pungent in smell
Derived Forms
poignancy, poignance, noun
poignantly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Old French, from Latin pungens pricking, from pungere to sting, pierce, grieve
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for poignantly



late 14c., "painful to physical or mental feeling" (of sauce, spice, wine as well as things that affect the feelings), from Old French poignant "sharp, pointed" (13c.), present participle of poindre "to prick, sting," from Latin pungere "to prick" (see pungent). Related: Poignantly.

The word disguises a linguistics trick-play, a double reverse. Latin pungere is from the same root as Latin pugnus "fist," and represents a metathesis of -n- and -g- that later was reversed in French.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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