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From Middle English, borrowed from Old French, from Late Latin compunctionem (a pricking), from Latin compunctus, the past participle of compungere (to severely prick), from com- + pungere (to prick).


  • IPA(key): /kəmˈpʌŋk.ʃən/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌŋkʃən


compunction (countable and uncountable, plural compunctions)

  1. A pricking of conscience or a feeling of regret, especially one which is slight or fleeting.
    • 1857, Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, book 2, chapter 6:
      [H]e would have had no compunction whatever in flinging him out of the highest window in Venice into the deepest water of the city.
    • 1897, Bram Stoker, chapter 3, in Dracula:
      I felt no compunction in doing so, for under the circumstances I felt that I should protect myself in every way I could.
    • 1920, D. H. Lawrence, chapter 8, in Women in Love:
      But he felt, later, a little compunction. He had been violent, cruel with poor Hermione. He wanted to recompense her, to make it up.
    • 2003 February 16, Blaine Greteman, "No Peace Dividend," Time:
      As for average U.S. consumers, they've shown little compunction about buying diamonds that fund bloody militias in Africa.



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