mod·​est | \ˈmä-dəst \

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

Concord’s Municipal Light Plant recently approved a modest increase in electricity rates as part of an effort to help the town meet its long term energy goals. John Laidler,, "Concord to increase electricity rates," 2 July 2018 Trotz wanted to be paid like one of the league's top coaches, but a modest two-year contract increase that kicked in after winning the Stanley Cup was not enough. A.j. Perez, USA TODAY, "Reports: Barry Trotz to take over as coach of the Islanders," 21 June 2018 But some officials say a deal can be reached for a modest increase at this week’s meeting. Paulina Firozi, Washington Post, "The Energy 202: Kilauea's eruption reignites debate over Hawaii's geothermal plant," 18 June 2018 The percentage of black and Latino workers at Google in the U.S. has seen only a modest increase in recent years, rising from 1.9 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, in 2014. James Rogers, Fox News, "Facebook making slow progress on diversity, report says," 13 July 2018 Insurers in some states, such as Pennsylvania and Vermont, have requested relatively modest increases. Tami Luhby, CNN, "Obamacare premiums set to soar in 2019," 7 June 2018 While many young people continue to feel powerless in the current political environment, the modest increases revealed in the poll could be further evidence of a Democratic wave building against the GOP this fall. Steve Peoples And Emily Swanson, The Christian Science Monitor, "New poll finds that young people feel more politically empowered," 30 May 2018 Many come from families with modest incomes and are already working to support their own families while improving their career prospects. Nestor Ramos,, "What kind of candidate for chancellor would turn up at UMass Boston now? This guy," 23 May 2018 The Republican leadership said the bills would help ease the state’s pension crisis while a modest increase in taxes would mean the budget would not include deep cuts to education funding included in Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget. Tom Loftus, The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky House Republican Leader Jonathan Shell loses race to teacher," 22 May 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

5 Nov 2018

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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



English Language Learners Definition of modest

: 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


mod·​est | \ˈmä-dəst \

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

What made you want to look up modest? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something that serves to warn or remind

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