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adjective \ˈkȯi\

Simple Definition of coy

  • : having a shy or sweetly innocent quality that is often intended to be attractive or to get attention

  • : not telling or revealing all the information that could be revealed

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of coy

  1. 1 a :  shrinking from contact or familiarity <'tis but a kiss I beg, Why art thou coy? — William Shakespeare> b :  marked by cute, coquettish, or artful playfulness <using coy tricks to attract attention>

  2. 2 :  showing reluctance to make a definite commitment <a coy response>

coyly adverb
coyness noun

Examples of coy in a sentence

  1. It is distinctly odd to read a whole page dedicated to Hitler's life and character without a reference to his anti-Semitism. To say that Swiss banks contained gold coming from the bank accounts, the jewelry boxes, and the teeth of “concentration camp victims” is a little coy. —Ian Buruma, New Republic, 31 Jan. 2000

  2. Rival camps are terrified that Bush will reject federal matching funds and the campaign-spending limits they impose, and Bush's aides are coy on the subject. —John F. Dickerson, Time, 8 Mar. 1999

  3. And there's Julia, the charming “chatterbot” (a text-based computer character), whose coy pickup banter echoes that of real-life Internet flirts. —Michiko Kakutani, Albany (New York) Times-Union, 20 Aug. 1997

  4. I didn't like her coy manner.

  5. He gave a coy answer.

Origin of coy

Middle English, quiet, shy, from Anglo-French quoi, quei, koi quiet, from Latin quietus

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of coy

shy, bashful, diffident, modest, coy mean not inclined to be forward. shy implies a timid reserve and a shrinking from familiarity or contact with others <shy with strangers>. bashful implies a frightened or hesitant shyness characteristic of childhood and adolescence <a bashful boy out on his first date>. diffident stresses a distrust of one's own ability or opinion that causes hesitation in acting or speaking <felt diffident about raising an objection>. modest suggests absence of undue confidence or conceit <modest about her success>. coy implies a pretended shyness <put off by her coy manner>.

Rhymes with coy



verb \ˈkȯi\

Definition of coy


  1. transitive verb
  2. :  caress

  3. intransitive verb
  4. archaic :  to act coyly (see 1coy)

Origin of coy

(see 1coy)

First Known Use: 14th century

COY Defined for Kids


adjective \ˈkȯi\

Definition of coy for Students

  1. :  falsely shy or modest

History for coy

Coy now usually means “pretending to be shy,” but earlier in the history of English it meant just “shy” as well as “quiet.” English borrowed the word from medieval French. In French, it comes, by regular changes in sound, from Latin quietus, which—borrowed directly from Latin into English—gives us the word quiet.

Seen and Heard

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marked by grandiloquent style

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