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[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.
Origin of qualm
1520-30; origin uncertain Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for qualms
  • Although she was nervous about what the publisher would think, she doesn't have any qualms about kids' reactions.
  • Other researchers say they have several qualms about those conclusions.
  • When the report arrived, our qualms were confirmed.
  • And since it is indeed a wish list, I've got no qualms about getting purely hypothetical about it.
  • While he was composing it, he began to feel some qualms.
  • He didn't have qualms about being shorter.
  • One day she may well write a good book - as indeed she will, in a sequel - but she has no qualms.
  • So I don't have too many qualms about putting a mosquito out of its misery.
  • And it has no qualms about eating the odd hiker in a pinch.
  • The committee's qualms with the current clearance process did not stop with the pathway to the market.
British Dictionary definitions for qualms


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 qualms

see qualm.



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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