[kuh m-puhngk-shuh n]


a feeling of uneasiness or anxiety of the conscience caused by regret for doing wrong or causing pain; contrition; remorse.
any uneasiness or hesitation about the rightness of an action.

Origin of compunction

1350–1400; Middle English compunccion (< Anglo-French) < Late Latin compūnctiōn- (stem of compūnctiō), equivalent to Latin compūnct(us), past participle of compungere to prick severely (com- com- + pungere to prick; cf. point) + -iōn- -ion
Related formscom·punc·tion·less, adjective
Can be confusedcompulsion compunction Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for compunction

Contemporary Examples of compunction

Historical Examples of compunction

  • His tone was filled full to overflowing with compunction as he answered.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Hers was not the nature to spare him, and she had no compunction.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • Mr. Don rises, wincing, and Dick also is at once on his feet, full of compunction.

    Echoes of the War

    J. M. Barrie

  • But the minister, filled with compunction, took her up in his arms.

    Salted With Fire

    George MacDonald

  • A sudden feeling of shame brought with it one of compunction.

    His Masterpiece

    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for compunction



a feeling of remorse, guilt, or regret
Derived Formscompunctious, adjectivecompunctiously, adverb

Word Origin for compunction

C14: from Church Latin compunctiō, from Latin compungere to sting, from com- (intensive) + pungere to puncture; see point
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

Word Origin and History for compunction

mid-14c., from Old French compunction (12c., Modern French componction), from Late Latin compunctionem (nominative compunctio) "remorse; a pricking" (of conscience), noun of action from past participle stem of Latin compungere "to severely prick, sting," from com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + pungere "to prick" (see pungent). Used in figurative sense by early Church writers. Originally a much more intense feeling, similar to "remorse," or "contrition."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper