Stories We Like: A Guide to the Comma


[kwahm, kwawm] /kwɑm, kwɔm/
an uneasy feeling or pang of conscience as to conduct; compunction:
He has no qualms about lying.
a sudden feeling of apprehensive uneasiness; misgiving:
a sudden qualm about the success of the venture.
a sudden sensation or onset of faintness or illness, especially of nausea.
1520-30; origin uncertain Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for qualm
  • My biggest qualm with the debate is people's perceptions.
  • When she wanted additional funds, she disposed of cherished possessions, seemingly without a qualm.
  • They used, without qualm, whatever instruments they found at hand.
  • It wasn't a question of moral qualm; just lack of know-how.
  • My qualm with this article is the manner in which the author chooses to present his material.
  • They accept the market's complexity without qualm, yet insist the complexity of biological phenomena requires a designer.
  • When the script calls for wry and ribald humor, she flips it without a modest qualm.
  • The lure of price controls is easy to deduce, they offer easy solutions to policy makers and qualm public fears in the short run.
British Dictionary definitions for qualm


a sudden feeling of sickness or nausea
a pang or sudden feeling of doubt, esp concerning moral conduct; scruple
a sudden sensation of misgiving or unease
Derived Forms
qualmish, adjective
qualmishly, adverb
qualmishness, noun
Word Origin
Old English cwealm death or plague; related to Old High German qualm despair, Dutch kwalm smoke, stench
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 qualm
O.E. cwealm (W.Saxon) "death, disaster, plague," utcualm (Anglian) "utter destruction," related to cwellan "to kill," cwelan "to die" (see quell). Sense softened to "feeling of faintness" 1530; meaning "uneasiness, doubt" is from 1553; that of "scruple of conscience" is 1649. A direct connection between the O.E. and modern senses is wanting, but it is nonetheless plausible, via the notion of "fit of sickness." The other suggested etymology, less satisfying, is from Du. kwalm "steam, vapor, mist," which also may be ult. from the same Gmc. root as quell.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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