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 At the same time, Europeans get a larger (if still modest) say in how American nukes might be used. The Economist, "Turkey’s Syria move highlights America’s tactical nukes in Europe," 28 Nov. 2019 Although many of the academic-scientist recipients earn relatively modest salaries, taxpayers also repay school loans for physician researchers who rank in the top 1% to 2% of all U.S. wage earners. Charles Piller, Science | AAAS, "Investigation reveals widespread double dipping in NIH program to pay off school debt," 21 Nov. 2019 The school is consolidated in a single gray building in the heart of the city’s modest, ambiently colonial downtown area. Luke Winkie, The Atlantic, "Where Gamers Are the Only Varsity Athletes," 13 Nov. 2019 Syria’s oil reserves are modest, estimated in 2011 at around 2.5 billion barrels. Washington Post, "For east Syria, US troops are about much more than oil," 8 Nov. 2019 The last time the holiday season was cut short, in 2013, sales rose a modest 2.9%, according to NRF's analysis of holiday spending. Joseph Pisani, chicagotribune.com, "Thanksgiving is on the latest possible date this year, so stores are launching holiday deals earlier than ever," 1 Nov. 2019 There are thousands of worker owned and managed firms in the United States and a modest, and particularly wonky model for ownership—employee stock-ownership retirement plans—has enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington for decades. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "Bernie Sanders Takes Aim at Wealth—and Warren," 14 Oct. 2019 Many of these opportunity bargains are found outside our big, expensive cities — in modest, inner-ring suburbs or in rural parts of the upper Midwest. BostonGlobe.com, "Miracle on the Mystic: Chelsea, Everett, and the New American Dream," 11 Oct. 2019 In 2017, the format saw a stunning 136 percent rise in sales, while 2018 saw a more modest, but still noticeable 19 percent increase, according to industry analyst Buzzangle. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "We're Facing a Worldwide Cassette Shortage, So Hug Your Nearest Hipster," 11 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for modest

Time Traveler

The first known use of modest was in 1550

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Statistics for modest

Last Updated

3 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Modest.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/modest. Accessed 13 December 2019.

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More Definitions for modest

modest

adjective
How to pronounce modest (audio)

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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