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qualm

[kwahm, kwawm] /kwɑm, kwɔm/
noun
1.
an uneasy feeling or pang of conscience as to conduct; compunction:
He has no qualms about lying.
2.
a sudden feeling of apprehensive uneasiness; misgiving:
a sudden qualm about the success of the venture.
3.
a sudden sensation or onset of faintness or illness, especially of nausea.
Origin of qualm
1520-1530
1520-30; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for qualms
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Sir Bale's qualms were symptomatic of something a little less sublime and more selfish than conscience.

    J. S. Le Fanu's Ghostly Tales, Volume 3 Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
  • He feared the swordfish would ram us, and I had some qualms myself.

    Tales of Fishes Zane Grey
  • But Mary Standish saved him any qualms of conscience which he might have had because of his lack of chivalry the preceding night.

    The Alaskan James Oliver Curwood
  • Personally I have no qualms of conscience about this piece of work.

    A Set of Six Joseph Conrad
  • The flesh and the qualms of the flesh she was heir to, but the flesh bore heavily only on the flesh.

    The Sea-Wolf Jack London
British Dictionary definitions for qualms

qualm

/kwɑːm/
noun
1.
a sudden feeling of sickness or nausea
2.
a pang or sudden feeling of doubt, esp concerning moral conduct; scruple
3.
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 qualms
n.

see qualm.

qualm

n.

Old English cwealm (West Saxon) "death, murder, slaughter; disaster; plague; torment," utcualm (Anglian) "utter destruction," probably related to cwellan "to kill, murder, execute," cwelan "to die" (see quell). Sense softened to "feeling of faintness" 1520s; figurative meaning "uneasiness, doubt" is from 1550s; that of "scruple of conscience" is 1640s.

Evidence of a direct path from the Old English to the modern senses is wanting, but it is plausible, via the notion of "fit of sickness." The other suggested etymology, less satisfying, is to take the "fit of uneasiness" sense from Dutch kwalm "steam, vapor, mist" (cognate with German Qualm "smoke, vapor, stupor"), which also might be ultimately from the same Germanic root as quell.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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