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Italian puntiglio, or Spanish puntillo, diminutive from Latin punctum (point).


  • IPA(key): /pʌŋkˈtɪliˌoʊ/
    • (file)


punctilio (countable and uncountable, plural punctilios)

  1. A fine point in exactness of conduct, ceremony or procedure. Strictness in observance of formalities.
    • 1830, Joseph Plumb Martin, A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier, Ch. IX:
      The country was rigorous in exacting my compliance to my engagements to a punctilio, but equally careless in performing her contracts with me; and why so?
    • 1884, Henry James, "The Path of Duty" in The English Illustrated Magazine 2(15): 240–256.
      [I]t seemed strange to be engaged to so charming a girl and yet go through with it as if it were simply a social duty. If one had n't been in love with her at first, one ought to have been at the end of a week or two. If Ambrose Tester was not (and to me he did n't pretend to be), he carried it off, as I have said, better than I should have expected. He was a gentleman, and he behaved like a gentleman, with the added punctilio, I think, of being sorry for his betrothed.
    • 1922 February, James Joyce, “[[Episode 16]]”, in Ulysses, London: The Egoist Press, published October 1922, OCLC 2297483:
      All those wretched quarrels, in his humble opinion, stirring up bad blood, from some bump of combativeness or gland of some kind, erroneously supposed to be about a punctilio of honour and a flag, []
    • 1988, Alan Hollinghurst, The Swimming Pool Library, Penguin Books (1988), page 254
      Covert gestures of kindness saved me from trouble, or explained the punctilio of some futile but unavoidable chore.

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for punctilio in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)

Derived terms[edit]