adjective mod·est \ ˈmä-dəst \
|Updated on: 30 Jul 2018

Definition of modest

1 a : 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
4 a : limited in size, amount, or scope
  • a family of modest means
b : unpretentious
  • a modest home



Examples of modest in a Sentence

  1. 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. BlackmonSlavery By Another Name2008
  2. … 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 UpdikeHarper'sOctober 2004
  3. 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 RothAmerican Pastoral1997
  4. They own a modest home near the beach.

  5. She enjoyed modest success with her singing career.

  6. He earns a modest income.

  7. We live on a modest budget.

  8. New cars are now available at relatively modest prices.

  9. He has only a modest amount of knowledge on the subject.

  10. It is a book of only modest importance.

  11. She's very modest about her achievements.

  12. Don't be so modest. Your performance was wonderful!

  13. “I'm not a hero. I was just doing my job,” he said in his characteristically modest way.

Recent Examples of modest from the Web

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.

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

Origin and Etymology of modest

Latin modestus moderate; akin to Latin modus measure

Synonym Discussion of 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 Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of modest for English Language Learners

  • : not very large in size or amount

  • : 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 Defined for Kids


adjective mod·est \ ˈmä-dəst \

Definition of modest for Students

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



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very hard to disturb or upset

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