A Word A Day : Qualm

Thursday, 13th March 2008 : Today's Word is ...


( Noun )

Pronunciation : kwäm & kwôm


1. a sudden feeling of uncertainty or apprehension especially a misgiving about an action or conduct

2. a sudden pang of nausea

3. an uneasy feeling about the propriety or rightness of a course of action

4. nagging doubt


1520–30 - origin uncertain


compunction, misgiving, reservation, scruple, agitation, anxiety, apprehension, conscience, demur, disquiet, doubt, foreboding, hesitation, indecision, insecurity, misdoubt, mistrust, nervousness, objection, pang, perturbation, presentiment, regret, reluctance, remonstrance, remorse, suspicion, twinge, uncertainty, unease, uneasiness


Qualm, scruple, compunction, misgiving, regret, remorse: These nouns denote a feeling of uncertainty about the fitness or correctness of an action.

Qualm is a disturbing feeling of uneasiness and self-doubt.

Scruple is an uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle about a course of action.

Compunction implies a prick or twinge of conscience aroused by wrongdoing or the prospect of wrongdoing.

Misgiving suggests often sudden apprehension.

Regret carries no explicit admission that one is responsible for an incident.

Remorse implies a sense of guilty responsibility and a greater feeling of personal pain and anguish.


approval, comfort, contentedness, defiance, hardness, indifference, meanness, remorselessness

Contextual Examples:

• If you have a qualm about how honorable your ideas are, it is best to rethink your ideas.

• The doctor seemed seized with a qualm of faintness. He shut his mouth tight and nodded.

• With a frightful qualm, I turned and I saw that I had grasped the antenna of another monster crab that stood just behind me.

• I had to cling tight to the backstay and the world turned giddily before my eyes for though I was a good enough sailor when there was way on, this standing still and being rolled about like a bottle was a thing I never learned to stand without a qualm or so, above all in the morning, on an empty stomach.

• He has no qualms about lying.

• We felt a sudden qualm about the success of our venture.

Related Words:

qualmish : Adjective

qualmishly : Adverb

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