scruple

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
  1. noun
    an ethical or moral principle that inhibits action
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    type of:
    principle
    a rule or standard especially of good behavior
  2. noun
    uneasiness about the fitness of an action
    synonyms: misgiving, qualm
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    type of:
    anxiety
    a vague unpleasant emotion that is experienced in anticipation of some (usually ill-defined) misfortune
  3. noun
    a unit of apothecary weight equal to 20 grains
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    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
  4. verb
    hesitate on moral grounds
    “The man scrupled to perjure himself”
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    type of:
    hesitate, pause
    interrupt temporarily an activity before continuing
  5. verb
    have doubts about
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    type of:
    question, wonder
    place in doubt or express doubtful speculation
  6. verb
    raise scruples
    “He lied and did not even scruple about it”
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    type of:
    fret, fuss, niggle
    worry unnecessarily or excessively
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