Definition of poignant in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpɔɪnjənt/


1Evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret: a poignant reminder of the passing of time
More example sentences
  • The play follows the story of one man's fight to save his land, combining poignant drama with a sense of humour.
  • He can be rather repetitive, but his best work has great delicacy of colour and handling and a poignant sense of lost innocence.
  • Funny, touching, moving and poignant - this could be one of the most affecting shows the Alhambra has staged.
1.1 archaic Sharp or pungent in taste or smell: the poignant scent of her powder
More example sentences
  • Old memories returned to her in that split second, followed by poignant smells and visions a past where her world was nothing less than a fairy tale.


Late Middle English: from Old French, literally 'pricking', present participle of poindre, from Latin pungere 'to prick'.

  • Something that makes you feel a keen sense of sadness or regret can be described as poignant. This comes from an Old French word that meant ‘pricking’ and derived from Latin pungere, ‘to prick’. Back in the Middle Ages you could describe a weapon as poignant, meaning that it had a sharp point. The word could also be applied to sharp tastes or smells, as in ‘a poignant sauce’ or ‘a poignant scent’. This sense is now covered by the related word pungent (late 16th century), which originally meant ‘very painful or distressing’ and at one time could also mean ‘telling or convincing’, as in Samuel Pepys's reference to ‘a very good and pungent sermon’. The slim dagger called a poinard (mid 16th century) may look as if it should be related, particularly as it is often spelt with a ‘g’ in early texts. However, this illustrates the danger of jumping to conclusions in etymologies. It gets its name from the fact that it is held in the fist, from Latin pugnus ‘fist’. This is also the source, via pugnare ‘to fight’, of pugnacious (mid 17th century). See also point

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