[ kuh m-puhngk-shuh n ]
/ kəmˈpʌŋk ʃən /


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.

Nearby words

  1. compulsive,
  2. compulsive personality,
  3. compulsively,
  4. compulsory,
  5. compulsory purchase,
  6. compunctious,
  7. compurgation,
  8. compurgator,
  9. computation,
  10. computational

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

British Dictionary definitions for compunction


/ (kəmˈpʌŋkʃən) /


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