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

Examples of bashful in a Sentence

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 Unions aren’t bashful about displaying such a show of force, which has achieved labor’s ends before. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 May 2024 And when asked postgame about the source of her competitive fuel, Watkins deflected onto her teammates with a bashful grin. Luca Evans, Orange County Register, 9 Mar. 2024 For subscribers:Restaurant of the Year Alpino brings a foreign, yet familiar cuisine to Detroit No. 1: Coeur, Ferndale Chef Jordan Smith’s ambition to present a no-frills establishment is no indication of a bashful pedigree. Detroit Free Press, 10 Mar. 2024 Curry wasn’t bashful about dialing long-distance, with misses coming from as far as 36 and 41 feet. Jerry McDonald, The Mercury News, 19 Feb. 2024 As a result, Moscow has not been bashful about helping the Houthis. Hamidreza Azizi, Foreign Affairs, 14 Feb. 2024 Another clip shows Teigen scurrying back to her seat, looking bashful from the situation. Michelle Lee, Peoplemag, 26 Dec. 2023 Corinne Bailey Rae, first known for bashful and yearning mid-2000s pop, debuts her shriek while narrating her subject’s joyous commute. Pitchfork, 4 Dec. 2023 The turtles and ducks will eventually grab their share, but bluegills are not bashful, so look for the swirls and pops to judge quality and quantity. David A. Brown, Field & Stream, 11 Jan. 2024

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 23 Jun. 2024.

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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