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soul +‎ searching; the noun is derived from the adjective.

Alternative forms[edit]



soul-searching (comparative more soul-searching, superlative most soul-searching)

  1. Involving probing introspection, or a critical consideration of one's conscience, especially motives and values.
    • 1794, Henry Fielding, “Mr. Henry Fielding”, in The Mock Doctor; or, The Dumb Lady Cured. A Ballad Farce, in Two Acts, Written by Mr. Henry Fielding. As Performed at the Theatres-Royal, Covent-Garden and Hay-Market, London: Printed by J[ohn] Jarvis, for J[ohn] Parsons, nº 21, Paternoster-Row, OCLC 928190269, page ix:
      Fortune had showered upon him gifts unlooked for; had enabled him, had he been blessed with prudence, to keep the path where he could have been free from ostentatious obligation, on the one hand, and soul searching mortification on the other: but, like an improvident spendthrift, he had lavished away in the fever of indiscretion, the gifts she had bestowed with so liberal a hand; []
    • 1831, Anne [Newport] Royall, “Camden”, in Mrs. Royall's Southern Tour, or Second Series of the Black Book. [...] In Three or More Volumes, volume II, Washington: [s.n.], OCLC 6193851, pages 44–45:
      His face is fair, rather oval, his eye dark, soft and bashful, glows with a soul-searching kindness; []
    • 1853, Thomas Shepard; John A[dams] Albro, “Life of Thomas Shepard. [Chapter XII.]”, in The Works of Thomas Shepard, First Pastor of the First Church, Cambridge, Mass. with a Memoir of His Life and Character [by John A. Albro], volume I, Boston, Mass.: Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, OCLC 918036422, page clxxx:
      He [Thomas Shepard] was a soul-searching minister of the gospel. By his death, not only the church and people of Cambridge, but also all New England, sustained a very great loss.
    • 1885, Canon Spence [Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones], The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: A Translation with Notes; and Excursus (I. to IX.) Illustrative of the “Teaching”; and the Greek Text, London: James Nisbet, OCLC 703820570, page 66:
      Very simple but very soul-searching was the preparation, but very peremptory was the command to all never to neglect to share in the divinely-instituted sacrament.
    • 1988 May, Morris N. Eagle, “Is Psychoanalysis a Fraudulent Doctrine?”, in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, volume 33, number 5, DOI:10.1037/025687, abstract, page 404:
      Whatever one thinks of [Frederick Campbell] Crews's indictment, the issues he raises represent important challenges to psychoanalysis and should encourage serious, even soulsearching, thought on the part of psychoanalytic adherents.
    • 2008, Mindy Caliguire, “Experience Four: Responding to Grace”, in Soul Searching, Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, →ISBN, page 99:
      We should pause, even for a moment, to do a soul-searching exercise before participating in Communion.
    • 2016 January, Cecilia Sayad, “A Matter of (Informed) Taste”, in Film Criticism, volume 40, number 1, DOI:10.3998/fc.13761232.0040.129:
      The rate of soul-searching articles multiplied after a number of well-established figures lost their jobs in this century's first decade.


soul-searching (countable and uncountable, plural soul-searchings)

  1. Probing introspection; a critical consideration of one's conscience; also, an instance of such consideration.
    After much soul-searching I decided to confess.
    You’d better do some serious soul-searching before you decide to leave her.
    • 1974 September 8, Jerald F[ranklin] terHorst, letter of resignation as White House Press Secretary[1], quoted in Jerald F. terHorst, Gerald Ford and the Future of the Presidency, New York, N.Y.: Third Press, 1974, →ISBN, page 236:
      So it is with great regret, after long soul-searching, that I must inform you that I cannot in good conscience support your decision to pardon former President [Richard] Nixon even before he has been charged with the commission of any crime.
    • 1992, H[enry] W[illiam] Brands, “The Bottom Line: 1927–1934”, in Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines, New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 144:
      To the militarists foreign conquest offered a solution to several problems at once: how to expand markets for Japanese products, how to guarantee sources of raw materials, how to restore national self-confidence at a moment of soulsearching, and how to consolidate political power at home.
    • 2010 December 29, Chris Whyatt, “Chelsea 1 – 0 Bolton”, in BBC Sport[2], archived from the original on 6 March 2016:
      Much soul-searching is going on at the west London club who, just seven weeks ago, were five points clear at the top of the table and playing with the verve with which they won the title last season.
    • 2016 October 24, Owen Gibson, “Is the unthinkable happening – are people finally switching the football off?”, in The Guardian[3], London, archived from the original on 10 January 2017:
      And yet, arresting figures suggesting a decline in early season ratings have prompted an outbreak of soul‑searching at those broadcasters and head‑scratching among analysts.



  1. present participle of soul-search