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[kuh m-puhngk-shuh n] /kəmˈpʌŋk ʃən/
a feeling of uneasiness or anxiety of the conscience caused by regret for doing wrong or causing pain; contrition; remorse.
any uneasiness or hesitation about the rightness of an action.
Origin of compunction
1350-1400; Middle English compunccion (< Anglo-French) < Late Latin compūnctiōn- (stem of compūnctiō), equivalent to Latin compūnct(us), past participle of compungere to prick severely (com- com- + pungere to prick; cf. point) + -iōn- -ion
Related forms
compunctionless, adjective
Can be confused
compulsion, compunction. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for compunction
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In ancient Egypt it was a sin to kill a cat; in England cats are slain in myriads without a tremor of compunction.

    Flowers of Freethought George W. Foote
  • Mr. Don rises, wincing, and Dick also is at once on his feet, full of compunction.

    Echoes of the War J. M. Barrie
  • Well, just try to remember how many instances of compunction you have seen.

    Chance Joseph Conrad
  • But the minister, filled with compunction, took her up in his arms.

    Salted With Fire George MacDonald
  • Callous as the wretch was, Percival's emotion and his proposal struck Varney with a sentiment like compunction.

    Lucretia, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
British Dictionary definitions for compunction


a feeling of remorse, guilt, or regret
Derived Forms
compunctious, adjective
compunctiously, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Church Latin compunctiō, from Latin compungere to sting, from com- (intensive) + pungere to puncture; see point
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for compunction

mid-14c., from Old French compunction (12c., Modern French componction), from Late Latin compunctionem (nominative compunctio) "remorse; a pricking" (of conscience), noun of action from past participle stem of Latin compungere "to severely prick, sting," from com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + pungere "to prick" (see pungent). Used in figurative sense by early Church writers. Originally a much more intense feeling, similar to "remorse," or "contrition."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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