Your scruples are what keep you from doing things you consider to be morally or ethically wrong. Your scruples won't allow you to cheat on a test, or steal from your brother's Halloween candy stash.

The noun scruple comes from a Latin word, scrupulus, which means a small, sharp stone. Some say that the philosopher Cicero first used the word analogously to compare a worry to a small, sharp stone in your shoe that bothers you. From there the word scruple took on the ethical principles meaning. If you are doing something bad, your scruples will bother you — but emptying your shoe probably won't help.

Definitions of scruple

n an ethical or moral principle that inhibits action

Type of:
a rule or standard especially of good behavior

n uneasiness about the fitness of an action

misgiving, qualm
Type of:
a vague unpleasant emotion that is experienced in anticipation of some (usually ill-defined) misfortune

n a unit of apothecary weight equal to 20 grains

Type of:
apothecaries' unit, apothecaries' weight
any weight unit used in pharmacy; an ounce is equal to 480 grains and a pound is equal to 12 ounces

v hesitate on moral grounds

“The man scrupled to perjure himself”
Type of:
hesitate, pause
interrupt temporarily an activity before continuing

v have doubts about

Type of:
question, wonder
place in doubt or express doubtful speculation

v raise scruples

“He lied and did not even scruple about it”
Type of:
fret, fuss, niggle
worry unnecessarily or excessively

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