• synonyms


[poin-yuhnt, poi-nuhnt]
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  1. keenly distressing to the feelings: poignant regret.
  2. keen or strong in mental appeal: a subject of poignant interest.
  3. affecting or moving the emotions: a poignant scene.
  4. pungent to the smell: poignant cooking odors.
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Origin of poignant

1350–1400; Middle English poynaunt < Middle French poignant, present participle of poindre < Latin pungere to prick, pierce. See pungent, -ant
Related formspoign·ant·ly, adverbun·poign·ant, adjectiveun·poign·ant·ly, adverb


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1, 2. mild.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for poignant

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • She could not at first guess any possible cause for an emotion so poignant.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Those were days of fond reminiscence and poignant regret on my part.

  • All at once the poignant and disgusting attack of the insects ceased.

  • Thy heart is ingenuous and sincere; thy misfortune is poignant and affecting.


    William Godwin

  • Had I done so, how poignant would be my remorse at the retribution of our own sufferings, and the pity of those I had so injured!

    The Secret Memoirs of Louis XV./XVI, Complete

    Madame du Hausset, an "Unknown English Girl" and the Princess Lamballe

British Dictionary definitions for poignant


  1. sharply distressing or painful to the feelings
  2. to the point; cutting or piercingpoignant wit
  3. keen or pertinent in mental appeala poignant subject
  4. pungent in smell
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Derived Formspoignancy or poignance, nounpoignantly, 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

Word Origin and History for poignant


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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper