bash·​ful ˈbash-fəl How to pronounce bashful (audio)
: socially shy or timid : diffident, self-conscious
He was bashful as a child.
: resulting from or typical of a bashful nature
a bashful smile
bashfully adverb
bashfulness noun

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The Roots of Bashful

The adjective suffix -ful has a number of different senses, most of which have very little to do with "full of." In the case of bashful, -ful means "having the qualities of." This sense of -ful was combined with an obsolete verb bash meaning "to be abashed” (that is, dismayed or embarrassed) to form bashful, which literally means “having the qualities of being abashed.” This combination of a verb with -ful is also seen in mournful, which literally means “having the qualities of mourning.”

Choose the Right Synonym for bashful

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

Example Sentences

bashful boys asking girls to dance a bashful child who hid in his room whenever there were visitors in the house
Recent Examples on the Web Her bedside manner is a sort of bashful nerdiness punctuated by sudden mischievous smiles. Erik Vance, Discover Magazine, 19 July 2014 See: the San Diego Wave FC, who aren’t bashful about their intention to raise the trophy Nov. 11. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Apr. 2023 Some are extremely bashful. Dr. June Hall,, 28 June 2021 This bashful slowpoke has been a favorite of consumers for years, though, because looks and power, apparently, aren’t everything. Josh Max, Forbes, 10 Feb. 2023 Butler offered a bashful giggle. New York Times, 25 May 2022 Monday, Utah was bashful by its standards. Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 2021 Don’t be bashful. Ben Flanagan |, al, 27 Nov. 2019 Memphis is not bashful about their extreme talent and youthful brilliance. Jaylon Thompson, USA TODAY, 4 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bashful.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Early Modern English bash "to lose composure, be dismayed" (going back to Middle English baishen, basshen, probably aphetic variant of abaissen, abaschen "to abash") + -ful entry 1

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of bashful was in 1548

Dictionary Entries Near bashful

Cite this Entry

“Bashful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


bash·​ful ˈbash-fəl How to pronounce bashful (audio)
: awkward or afraid around other people
bashfully adverb
bashfulness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on bashful

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