1540s, "a pinch, a nipping," from obsolete verb twinge "to pinch, tweak," from Old English twengan "to pinch," from Proto-Germanic *twangjan (source also of Old Frisian thwinga, Old Norse þvinga, Danish tvinge, Dutch dwingen, Old High German thwingan, German zwingen "to compel, force"), from PIE *twengh- "to press in on" (see thong). Meaning "sharp, sudden minor pain" is recorded from c. 1600. Figurative sense (with reference to shame, remorse, etc.) is recorded from 1620s.
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