• synonyms


[kuh m-puhngk-shuh n]
See more synonyms for compunction on Thesaurus.com
  1. a feeling of uneasiness or anxiety of the conscience caused by regret for doing wrong or causing pain; contrition; remorse.
  2. any uneasiness or hesitation about the rightness of an action.
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

conscience, pity, ruth, penitence, shame, repentance, reluctance, misgiving, contrition, sympathy, remorse, qualm, attrition, rue, punctiliousness

Examples from the Web for compunction

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • 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


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

Word Origin

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."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper