qualm

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English qualm, cwalm (death, sickness, plague), from Old English cwealm (West Saxon: "death, disaster, plague"), ūtcualm (Anglian: "utter destruction"), from Proto-Germanic *kwalmaz (killing, death, destruction), from Proto-Indo-European *gʷel- (to stick, pierce; pain, injury, death). Related to cwelan (to die,) cwellan (to kill). The other suggested etymology, less satisfying, is from Dutch kwalm "steam, vapor, mist," which also may be ultimately from the same Germanic root as quell. Sense softened to "feeling of faintness" 1530; meaning "uneasiness, doubt" is from 1553; that of "scruple of conscience" is 1649. An indirect connection between the Old English and modern senses is plausible, via the notion of "fit of sickness."

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

qualm (plural qualms)

  1. (now chiefly UK dialectal) Mortality; plague; pestilence.
  2. (now chiefly UK dialectal) A calamity or disaster.
  3. A feeling of apprehension, doubt, fear etc. [from 16th c.]
    • 2012 August 25, Andy Pasztor, “Armstrong, First Man on Moon, Dies”, Wall Street Journal, accessed on 2012-08-26:
      Opponents of those privatization plans hoped to use Mr. Armstrong's qualms as ammunition to block the White House initiatives, and they asked for more public statements.
  4. A sudden sickly feeling; queasiness. [from 16th c.]
  5. A prick of the conscience; a moral scruple, a pang of guilt. (Now chiefly in negative constructions.) [from 17th c.]

Synonyms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

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