a moral or ethical consideration or standard that acts as a restraining force or inhibits certain actions.
a very small portion or amount.
a unit of weight equal to 20 grains (1.295 grams) or 1/3 of a dram, apothecaries' weight.
an ancient Roman unit of weight equivalent to 1/24 of an ounce or 1/288 of an as or pound.Compare as2(def 2).

verb (used without object), scru·pled, scru·pling.

to have scruples.

verb (used with object), scru·pled, scru·pling.

to have scruples about; hesitate at.

Origin of scruple

1350–1400; (< French scrupule) < Latin scrūpulus unit of weight, worry, precaution equivalent to scrūp(us) rough pebble + -ulus -ule; replacing earlier scriple, Middle English < Latin scrīpulum (variant scriptulum) small weight, pebble, alteration of scrūpulus by association with scrīptum writing (see script; for sense relation cf. gram1)
Related formsscru·ple·less, adjectiveo·ver·scru·ple, verb, o·ver·scru·pled, o·ver·scru·pling.un·scru·pled, adjective

Synonyms for scruple Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for scruple

Historical Examples of scruple

  • So she did avail herself of his zeal,—and that without any scruple.

    Doctor Thorne

    Anthony Trollope

  • We burned foreign cloth without a scruple, and the spirituality of the movement did not receive a shock when we burned them.

    Freedom Through Disobedience

    C. R. (Chittaranjan) Das

  • Clearly these masses, and such as these, ought to be selected first for what I will not scruple to call interment.

    On Books and the Housing of Them

    William Ewart Gladstone

  • His mind was made up; there was nothing left of hesitation or scruple.

    The Mermaid

    Lily Dougall

  • Little Larkins had told all, and his father had no scruple in repeating it, and causing the investigation to be set on foot.

    The Daisy Chain

    Charlotte Yonge

British Dictionary definitions for scruple



(often plural) a doubt or hesitation as to what is morally right in a certain situation
archaic a very small amount
a unit of weight equal to 20 grains (1.296 grams)
an ancient Roman unit of weight equivalent to approximately one twenty-fourth of an ounce


(obsolete when tr) to have doubts (about), esp for a moral reason
Derived Formsscrupleless, adjective

Word Origin for scruple

C16: from Latin scrūpulus a small weight, from scrūpus rough stone
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 scruple

"moral misgiving, pang of conscience," late 14c., from Old French scrupule (14c.), from Latin scrupulus "uneasiness, anxiety, pricking of conscience," literally "small sharp stone," diminutive of scrupus "sharp stone or pebble," used figuratively by Cicero for a cause of uneasiness or anxiety, probably from the notion of having a pebble in one's shoe. The word in the more literal Latin sense of "small unit of weight or measurement" is attested in English from late 14c.


"to have or make scruples," 1620s, from scruple (n.). Related: Scrupled; scrupling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for scruple




An uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle that tends to hinder action.
A unit of apothecary weight that is equal to about 1.3 grams, or 20 grains.
A minute part or amount.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.