Compunction vs compulsion

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Compunction and compulsion are two words that sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of compunction and compulsion, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Compunction is a feeling of regret, remorse or repentance that one feels after committing transgressions. When someone feels compunction he may have a guilty conscience. For this reason, he may acknowledge that he is to blame for a problem and accept condemnation of his actions, perhaps performing a type of act of contrition. Someone who is said to have no compunction is not penitent, does not feel ashamed for his misdeed and does not feel that he should offer an apology asking to be forgiven. Someone who has no compunction is not contrite and feels no moral imperative to repent. Synonyms for the noun compunction that may be found in a thesaurus are conscience, penitence, shame, sorrow, guilt, contrition. The word compunction is derived from the Latin word compunctionem which means remorse, literally a sharp prick, referring to the conscience. Related words are the adjective compunctious and the adverb compunctiously.

Compulsion may mean the act of forcing someone to do something, the act of constraining someone to behave in a certain manner or to compel them to do something in a certain way. Compulsion also refers to an irresistible impulse to behave in a certain way. The term compulsion may refer to a psychological problem, such as compulsive personality disorder. Some people suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Victims who suffer from these mental health challenges have an urge or urges that are uncontrollable, such as excessive hand washing, scrupulosity, repetitive counting or checking the state of doors or windows, repeatedly. Not giving in to these compulsive feelings results in distress and anxiety. The word compulsion is such an emotionally charged word it was chosen as the title of a book and movie, Compulsion, which is a fictionalized retelling of a true crime story. The true crime story was a case of a thrill murder committed by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, a sensational story in 1924. Synonyms for the noun compulsion that may be found in a thesaurus are coercion, pressure, obsession, urge. The word compulsion is derived from the Latin word compulsionem, which means to force or to drive. Related words are the adjective compulsory and the adverb form compulsorily.


The newly disloyal Michael Cohen, who has shown little compunction about damaging the president, may be a lost cause. (New York Magazine)

This sickness of the soul allows a sociopath to be cruel, hurt and abuse others, lie, steal and cheat with no compunction whatsoever, precisely what Trump does every single day. (The Daily Gazette)

“The commuters themselves stand by the open door not by choice but by compulsion due to non-availability of seats and for the necessity to reach their offices by calls of duty.” (The Hindu)

With the WHO Gaming Disorder advice, often leading to conversations that medicalise gaming compulsion or trigger parents to limit or ban all games, experiences like Bury Me My Love, particularly when accessible in mainstream festivals, are an excellent way to broaden the conversation (Forbes Magazine)