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adjective dif·fi·dent \ˈdi-fə-dənt, -ˌdent\

Simple Definition of diffident

  • : lacking confidence : not feeling comfortable around people

  • : very careful about acting or speaking

Full Definition of diffident

  1. 1 :  hesitant in acting or speaking through lack of self-confidence

  2. 2 archaic :  distrustful

  3. 3 :  reserved, unassertive

dif·fi·dent·ly adverb

Examples of diffident

  1. Being suspicious of conventions, demotic equals were often at a loss in their daily encounters: shall one act diffident or clamant of one's rights? —Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, 2000

  2. Whatever made him diffident at the prospect of having a military strike ordered in his defense, he kept it to himself. —George Stephanopoulos, Newsweek, 15 Mar. 1999

  3. “It's Indianapolis 500,“ Andrew said with a polite smile, pleasing me with his diffident correction. —Camille Minichino, The Lithium Murder, 1999

  4. … a boy of 8 or 13, gazing foursquare at the camera, diffident but showing off, petulant but vulnerable … —Walker Percy, New York Times Book Review, 11 Oct. 1987

  5. She was diffident about stating her opinion.

  6. <for someone who makes a living performing for other people, the actress is remarkably diffident in real life>

Origin of diffident

Middle English, from Latin diffident-, diffidens, present participle of diffidere to distrust, from dis- + fidere to trust — more at bide

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of diffident

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>.

DIFFIDENT Defined for Kids


adjective dif·fi·dent \ˈdi-fə-dənt\

Definition of diffident

  1. 1 :  lacking confidence <With encouragement he became less diffident.>

  2. 2 :  cautious about acting or speaking <“Speak out, my boy—don't be diffident.” — Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer>

Seen and Heard

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February 6, 2016

an official order, decree, or edict

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