a. Arousing deep emotion, especially pity or sorrow; touching: a poignant memory; a poignant story. See Synonyms at moving.
b. Keenly distressing to the mind or feelings: poignant anxiety.
c. Physically painful: "Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward" (Ambrose Bierce).
2. Piercing; incisive: poignant criticism.
3. Agreeably intense or stimulating: "It was a poignant delight to breathe the keen air" (Joseph A. Altsheler).
a. Sharp or sour to the taste; piquant.
b. Sharp or pungent to the smell.
[Middle English poinaunt, from Old French poignant, present participle of poindre, to prick, from Latin pungere; see peuk- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
poignance, poignan·cy n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.