modest

adjective
mod·​est | \ ˈmä-dəst How to pronounce modest (audio) \

Definition of modest

1a : placing a moderate estimate on one's abilities or worth
b : neither bold nor self-assertive : tending toward diffidence
2 : arising from or characteristic of a modest nature
3 : observing the proprieties of dress and behavior : decent
4a : limited in size, amount, or scope a family of modest means
b : unpretentious a modest home

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Other Words from modest

modestly adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for modest

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

chaste, pure, modest, decent mean free from all taint of what is lewd or salacious. chaste primarily implies a refraining from acts or even thoughts or desires that are not virginal or not sanctioned by marriage vows. they maintained chaste relations pure differs from chaste in implying innocence and absence of temptation rather than control of one's impulses and actions. the pure of heart modest and decent apply especially to deportment and dress as outward signs of inward chastity or purity. preferred more modest swimsuits decent people didn't go to such movies

Modest: Ever So Humble

When used to modify a sum or amount, or to mean "unpretentious," modest conveys a sense of not being excessive:

Captives received a modest salary of $0.80 per day, working at farms around Sonoma County picking apples, prunes, hops and other crops.
Janet Balicki, The Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat, 8 Dec. 2016

The minister of foreign affairs drove up in a modest car and joined our conversation.
Michael Taussig, Vice, 22 June 2016

The adjective humble is often used this way too, as when one speaks of "one's humble abode." Both words can be used in a humorous way that might be seen as self-deprecating.

Like humble, modest adequately describe one who does not boast about one's achievements, thereby avoiding a different kind of excessiveness:

Louisa May Alcott was always modest about her gifts; whatever early dreams of genius she might have nourished had been knocked out of her years before her literary fame arrived.
Barbara L. Packer, The New York Times Book Review, 25 Oct. 1987

Soft-spoken and modest in conversation, Knoll would be accomplished enough with his visual-effects credits in movies alone.
Julie Hinds, The Detroit Free Press, 11 Dec. 2016

Examples of modest in a Sentence

The foundry work was grueling, but for a little longer Brierfield afforded these African Americans a way station of modest freedom and a residue of authentic independence that was fast disappearing for most rural blacks. — Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery By Another Name, 2008 … these remnants he lacked the will to discard, depressed him, deepening the low fever of depression in which even as modest a task as removing a blue doorknob loomed like a mountain almost impossible to climb. — John Updike, Harper's, October 2004 You're the hero, so then you have to behave in a certain way—there is a prescription for it. You have to be modest, you have to be forbearing, you have to be deferential, you have to be understanding. — Philip Roth, American Pastoral, 1997 They own a modest home near the beach. She enjoyed modest success with her singing career. He earns a modest income. We live on a modest budget. New cars are now available at relatively modest prices. He has only a modest amount of knowledge on the subject. It is a book of only modest importance. She's very modest about her achievements. Don't be so modest. Your performance was wonderful! “I'm not a hero. I was just doing my job,” he said in his characteristically modest way.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Turrell, who splits his time between a home on the eastern shore of Maryland and a modest ranch house 13 miles from the crater, is sticking around Arizona more these days, newly energized to push his project toward completion. Jay Cheshes, WSJ, "James Turrell’s New Masterpiece in the Desert," 14 Jan. 2019 Hurricane Matthew smashed and toppled trees across surrounding Beaufort County in 2016 but largely spared the modest ranch houses, bungalows and mobile homes of St. Helena Island. Russ Bynum, Fox News, "South Carolina slave descendants used to riding out storms," 12 Sep. 2018 While campaigning at a by-election in a poor part of Kent, Emily Thornberry, a London MP and shadow cabinet minister, tweeted a picture of a modest terraced house with a white van and three St George flags in front of it. The Economist, "English or British? Football highlights an enduring identity crisis," 12 July 2018 Miller’s request for help was answered by Frank Bridges, who pulled up to her modest town house in his pickup truck on a sweltering July morning. Robert Weisman, BostonGlobe.com, "The hidden, high-tech world of communications at Fenway Park," 7 July 2018 After a brief interrogation, father and daughter are relocated to a modest house adjacent to a tree farm. Debra Granik, New York Times, "Review: ‘Leave No Trace’ Is a Very American Story About Survival," 28 June 2018 Besides adding a wonderful texture and earthy, nutty taste to the rich lamb, the bulgur provides whole-grain nutrition and volume, so the relatively modest amount of meat has a satisfying presence on the plate. Ellie Krieger, charlotteobserver, "Bulgur + lamb = good stuff on the grill," 26 June 2018 Meanwhile, games that have relatively modest performance requirements have made cross-platform play with even mobile devices possible, something Redmond has already been exploring with Minecraft. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "Microsoft Might Add Mouse and Keyboard Support to the Xbox," 26 June 2018 On one side of the street, there’s a row of modest houses, the buzz of lawn mowers and the snapping of laundry in the breeze; on the other, all’s quiet, just a double perimeter of barbed wire around the looming prison walls. Samantha Melamed, Philly.com, "Can the rural prison economy survive the era of decarceration?," 7 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of modest

1550, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for modest

Latin modestus moderate; akin to Latin modus measure

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Statistics for modest

Last Updated

26 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for modest

The first known use of modest was in 1550

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More Definitions for modest

modest

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of modest

: not very large in size or amount
approving : not too proud or confident about yourself or your abilities : not showing or feeling great or excessive pride
of clothing : not showing too much of a person's body

modest

adjective
mod·​est | \ ˈmä-dəst How to pronounce modest (audio) \

Kids Definition of modest

1 : not overly proud or confident : not boastful Though champion, he was a modest winner.
2 : limited in size or amount modest wealth
3 : not showy She lives in a modest house.
4 : decent in thought, conduct, and dress

Other Words from modest

modestly adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on modest

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for modest

Spanish Central: Translation of modest

Nglish: Translation of modest for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of modest for Arabic Speakers

Comments on modest

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