dif·​fi·​dent | \ ˈdi-fə-dənt How to pronounce diffident (audio) , -ˌdent \

Definition of diffident

1 : hesitant in acting or speaking through lack of self-confidence
3 archaic : distrustful

Other Words from diffident

diffidently adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

What is an antonym of diffident?

Diffident and confident are etymologically related antonyms, perched at opposite ends of a scale of self-assurance. Both words trace back to the Latin verb fīdere, which means "to trust." Diffident arose from a combination of fīdere and the prefix dis-, meaning "the absence of"; it has been used to refer to individuals lacking in self-trust since the 15th century. Confident arose from confīdere, a term created by combining fīdere with the intensifying prefix con-. That term has been used for self-trusting folks since at least the late 16th century. Fīdere puts the trust in several other English words too, including fidelity and fiduciary.

Examples of diffident in a Sentence

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 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 "It's Indianapolis 500," Andrew said with a polite smile, pleasing me with his diffident correction. — Camille Minichino, The Lithium Murder, 1999 … 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 She was diffident about stating her opinion. for someone who makes a living performing for other people, the actress is remarkably diffident in real life See More
Recent Examples on the Web Earl is quiet and diffident, except to express surprisingly right-wing politics. Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times, 7 June 2022 But others will see a diffident official response to the attack and will want their children defended by people who know and care about them: their teachers, neighbors, families, and themselves. W. James Antle Iii, The Week, 27 May 2022 Critics marveled at the intimacy this apparently diffident figure could create. New York Times, 20 Apr. 2022 Klosterman’s appraisal of the ’90s’ legacy, while limited in some ways (there could have been more about hip-hop, for example, which Klosterman admits), is an engaging, nuanced and literate take on the alternately dynamic and diffident decade. Washington Post, 8 Mar. 2022 Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, has been a diffident figure so far. New York Times, 28 Jan. 2022 Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon trade off the lead female roles, playing the ambitious Regina and her diffident sister-in-law, Birdie. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, 29 June 2017 Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon trade off the lead female roles, playing the ambitious Regina and her diffident sister-in-law, Birdie. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, 29 June 2017 Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon trade off the lead female roles, playing the ambitious Regina and her diffident sister-in-law, Birdie. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, 29 June 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'diffident.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of diffident

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for diffident

Middle English, borrowed from Latin diffīdent-, diffīdens "distrustful, lacking in confidence," from present participle of diffīdere "to lack confidence (in), have no trust (in)," from dif-, assimilated form of dis- dis- + fīdere "to trust, have confidence (in)," going back to Indo-European *bhei̯dh- "trust, entrust" — more at faith entry 1

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Last Updated

13 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Diffident.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diffident. Accessed 30 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for diffident


dif·​fi·​dent | \ ˈdi-fə-dənt How to pronounce diffident (audio) \

Kids Definition of diffident

1 : lacking confidence With encouragement he became less diffident.
2 : cautious about acting or speaking "Speak out, my boy—don't be diffident."— Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

More from Merriam-Webster on diffident

Nglish: Translation of diffident for Spanish Speakers


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