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: marked by cute, coquettish, or artful playfulness
using coy tricks to attract attention
: shrinking from contact or familiarity
"'Tis but a kiss I beg, Why art thou coy?"William Shakespeare
: showing reluctance to make a definite commitment
a coy response
coyly adverb
coyness noun


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coyed; coying; coys

transitive verb

obsolete : caress

intransitive verb

archaic : to act coyly (see coy entry 1)
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of coy in a Sentence

Adjective 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
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
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
I didn't like her coy manner. He gave a coy answer.
Recent Examples on the Web
The other major change is that all the coy homoerotic subtext of their relationship is now overtly text. Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune, 13 June 2024 The clock is ticking and trouble is multiplying; there’s no time to be coy or euphemistic. Noel Murray, Vulture, 9 June 2024 For months, Trump, who in 2018 named Brnovich’s wife to a lifetime position as a federal judge, remained publicly coy about Brnovich’s political future. Ronald J. Hansen, The Arizona Republic, 25 Apr. 2024 When asked about his dating life that same night, Bateman kept things coy and deflected giving any details. Yasmeen Hamadeh, Peoplemag, 5 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for coy 

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

Word History


Adjective and Verb

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

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of coy was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near coy

Cite this Entry

“Coy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: marked by cute or sly playfulness or pretended shyness
using coy tricks to attract attention
coyly adverb
coyness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on coy

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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