dif·​fi·​dence ˈdi-fə-dən(t)s How to pronounce diffidence (audio)
: the quality or state of being unassertive or bashful : the quality or state of being diffident

Examples of diffidence in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Most foreigners are perplexed by the flagrant air of diffidence and dilettantism with which former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other contemporary Brexiteers have ruled the United Kingdom. Simon Kuper, Foreign Affairs, 1 Nov. 2022 The simultaneous inward intensity of feeling and outward diffidence, the emotional and moral dangers of simulation, the hot alien beauty of the city ... Boris Kachka, Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr. 2023 Despite her diffidence about feminist smugness, there’s no shortage of reflexive feminist mockery of men, though also a wonderful passage about the special female thrill in locating the tender heart of the brute. Laura Kipnis, The New Republic, 5 May 2023 Holga’s comments begin to sound one-note, and patience wears thin with Simon’s diffidence and Doric’s indifference. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Mar. 2023 One video shows the two cats at their first meeting exhibiting mutual curiosity and typical feline diffidence. Los Angeles Times, 14 Feb. 2023 One lesson of the book is that people reared in places saturated with complicated racial meanings ought to treat their convictions about race with diffidence and perhaps with suspicion. Paul C. Taylor, Washington Post, 26 Aug. 2022 After some initial diffidence, Biden seems to have helped lead the West into a response to Russia's aggression that neither validates assaults on a weaker neighbor's sovereignty nor unleashes World War III. W. James Antle Iii, The Week, 2 Mar. 2022 By the time the final act rolls around, Lamb approaches the idea that there’s a price that must be paid with a shrugging diffidence rather than impending doom. Alison Willmore, Vulture, 9 Oct. 2021 See More

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

Word History


Middle English dyffidence, borrowed from Latin diffīdentia, from diffīdent-, diffīdens "distrustful, diffident" + -ia -ia entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of diffidence was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near diffidence

Cite this Entry

“Diffidence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diffidence. Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!