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From Old French scrupule, from Latin scrūpulus ((literally) a small sharp or pointed stone; the twenty-fourth part of an ounce; uneasiness of mind, anxiety, doubt, trouble; scruple), diminutive of scrūpus (a rough or sharp stone; anxiety, uneasiness); perhaps akin to Ancient Greek σκύρος (skúros, the chippings of stone), from ξυρόν (xurón, razor), from ξύω (xúō, to scrape), from Proto-Indo-European *ksunyo-.



scruple (plural scruples)

  1. (obsolete) A weight of twenty grains or one third of a dram (symbol: ).
  2. (obsolete) Hence, a very small quantity; a particle.
  3. (obsolete) A doubt or uncertainty concerning a matter of fact; intellectual perplexity.
  4. Hesitation to act from the difficulty of determining what is right or expedient; doubt, hesitation or unwillingness due to motives of conscience.
    • 1857, Thomas Babington Macaulay, “John Bunyan”, in Biographical Essays. [...] Frederic the Great.—Bunyan.—Goldsmith.—Johnson.—Barère (Collection of British Authors; CCCCV), Tauchniz edition, Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchniz, OCLC 909866528, page 99:
      The four chief sins of which he was guilty were dancing, ringing the bells of the parish church, playing at tipcat, and reading the History of Sir Bevis of Southampton. A Rector of the school of [William] Laud would have held such a young man up to the whole parish as a model. But [John] Bunyan's notions of good and evil had been learned in a very different school; and he was made miserable by the conflict between his tastes and his scruples.
  5. A Hebrew unit of time equal to 11080 hour.


Derived terms[edit]



scruple (third-person singular simple present scruples, present participle scrupling, simple past and past participle scrupled)

  1. (intransitive) To hesitate or be reluctant to act due to considerations of conscience or expedience.
    • 1672, Robert South, “A True State and Account of the Plea of a Tender Conscience. In a Sermon Preach’d at Christ-Church, Oxon. before the University, in Michaelmas Term, 1672”, in Twelve Sermons upon Several Subjects and Occasions, volume III, 5th edition, London: Printed by H. Clark, for Jonah Bowyer, at the Rose, the West-End of St. Paul's Church-Yard, published 1722, OCLC 731567810, page 206:
      But the Tenderneſs, we have to deal with, is quite of another Nature, being ſuch as one as makes Men ſcruple at the Lawfulneſs of a Set Form of Divine Worship, at the Uſe of ſome Solemn Rites and Ceremonies in the Service of God; but makes them not ſtick at all at Sacrilege, which St. Paul equates to Idolatry; []
    • 1830 October 23, [Thomas] Fuller, “Good Thoughts in Bad Times”, in W. T. Brantly, editor, The Columbian Star and Christian Index, volume III, number 17, Philadelphia, Pa.: Printed by Martin & Boden, no. 204 Market Street, OCLC 699739666, page 263, column 2:
      On the day wherein we receive the sacrament, we are often over-precise, scrupling to say or do those things which lawfully we may. But we, who are more than curious that day, are not so much as careful the next; and too often (what shall I say?) go on in sin up to the ancles; yea, our sins go over our heads.
  2. (intransitive) To excite scruples in; to cause to scruple.
    • 1648, Edw[ard] Symmons, “Sect. IV. 1. The Nature of Their Charge Opened. 2. Their Vilanous and Bloudy Scope therein, Clearely Evidenced, and Proved. 3. How Perfectly in Their Tenents They Hold with the Jesuites in the Points of King-killing and King-deposing, Fully Declared.”, in A Vindication of King Charles: Or, a Loyal Subjects Duty. Manifested in Vindicating His Soveraigne from those Aspersions Cast upon Him by Certaine Persons, in a Scandalous Libel, Entituled, The Kings Cabinet Opened: And Published (as They Say) by Authority of Parliament. Whereunto is Added, a True Parallel betwixt the Sufferings of Our Saviour and Our Soveraign, in Divers Particulars, &c., [London?: s.n.], OCLC 839300790, page 37:
      It is granted indeed before that time, the Supream power was in Him [Charles I of England], and we were all his Subjects: and then perhaps ſome might Scruple to cut his throat, for there were lawes then in force against Regicides, but now ſince his Reſignation, (for ſo in our Tenents we hold this Act to be,) there is no ſcruple to be made, thoſe lawes against King-killers are ſuſpended, and he is now become as Samſon was without his ſtrength, []
  3. (transitive) To regard with suspicion; to question.
  4. (intransitive, obsolete) To question the truth of (a fact, etc.); to doubt; to hesitate to believe, to question.
    I do not scruple to admit that all the Earth seeth but only half of the Moon.


Further reading[edit]