Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Scrupulous

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is scrupulous. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Scrupulous means “very careful about doing something correctly.” It can also mean “careful about doing what is honest and morally right.”

// She was always very scrupulous about her work, paying attention to every little detail.

// Less scrupulous companies find ways to evade the law.


“In the Oscar-nominated film ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once,’ a Chinese-American couple (played by Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan) with a failing laundromat face a tax audit, meeting a scrupulous agent (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) at an IRS office to review stacks of business receipts.” — Kate Dore, CNBC, 24 Jan. 2023

Did You Know?

People described as “scrupulous” might feel discomfort in anything that challenges their moral sensibilities. Such challenges might present a nagging feeling, much as a sharp pebble in a shoe might nag a walker intent on getting somewhere. And we are getting somewhere. The origin of scrupulous is founded in just such a pebble. Scrupulous and its close relative scruple (“a feeling that prevents you from doing something that you think is wrong”) both come from the Latin noun scrupulus, “a small sharp stone,” the diminutive of scrupus, “a sharp stone.” Scrupus has a metaphorical meaning too: “a source of anxiety or uneasiness.” When the adjective scrupulous entered the English language in the 15th century, it meant “principled,” as in “having moral integrity,” but it now also commonly means “painstaking” or “careful.”

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