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[poin-yuh nt, poi-nuh nt] /ˈpɔɪn yənt, ˈpɔɪ nənt/
keenly distressing to the feelings:
poignant regret.
keen or strong in mental appeal:
a subject of poignant interest.
affecting or moving the emotions:
a poignant scene.
pungent to the smell:
poignant cooking odors.
Origin of poignant
1350-1400; Middle English poynaunt < Middle French poignant, present participle of poindre < Latin pungere to prick, pierce. See pungent, -ant
Related forms
poignantly, adverb
unpoignant, adjective
unpoignantly, adverb
1. intense, sincere, heartfelt. 4. piquant, sharp.
1, 2. mild. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for poignant
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Her mouth was stretched in a horrible grimace, so poignant was her feeling.

    Coquette Frank Swinnerton
  • I left school also—with a mixture of hope and elation, and yet the most poignant regret.

    The Martian George Du Maurier
  • Sisterly love, free solitude, unpraised creation, were to remain your most poignant joys.

    Emily Bront A. Mary F. (Agnes Mary Frances) Robinson
  • He looked at Grassette with a look of poignant pity and interest combined.

    Northern Lights Gilbert Parker
  • He laughed and made an effort to be gay, which had a poignant pathos in it that made Desiree bite her lip.

    Barlasch of the Guard H. S. Merriman
British Dictionary definitions for poignant


/ˈpɔɪnjənt; -nənt/
sharply distressing or painful to the feelings
to the point; cutting or piercing: poignant wit
keen or pertinent in mental appeal: a poignant subject
pungent in smell
Derived Forms
poignancy, poignance, noun
poignantly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Old French, from Latin pungens pricking, from pungere to sting, pierce, grieve
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 poignant

late 14c., "painful to physical or mental feeling" (of sauce, spice, wine as well as things that affect the feelings), from Old French poignant "sharp, pointed" (13c.), present participle of poindre "to prick, sting," from Latin pungere "to prick" (see pungent). Related: Poignantly.

The word disguises a linguistics trick-play, a double reverse. Latin pungere is from the same root as Latin pugnus "fist," and represents a metathesis of -n- and -g- that later was reversed in French.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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