modest

adjective
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

Wednesday’s report is the latest in a series suggesting inflationary pressures remain modest, which could give Fed policy makers more latitude to move slowly. Harriet Torry, WSJ, "U.S. Consumer Prices Flat in November, Posing Dilemma for Fed," 12 Dec. 2018 Today, Princess Beatrice opted for a surprisingly understated look, featuring a asymmetrical boatneck cut and modest, neutral stilettos. Lucia Tonelli, Town & Country, "Princess Beatrice's Maid of Honor Dress is Seriously Breathtaking," 12 Oct. 2018 Kate likes the more traditional and reserved outfits while Meghan tip-toes along the line between being modest and bold. Marina Liao, Marie Claire, "Meghan Markle Wears a Green Leather Hugo Boss Skirt for Her Royal Visit to Sussex with Prince Harry," 3 Oct. 2018 While each was modest and affordable for many middle-class home buyers, some were a bit more top of the line, as Mort and Edwards is built with cedar and outfitted with copper pipes. Samantha Weiss Hills, Curbed, "A Portland couple trades in a farmhouse for their midcentury dream home," 27 Aug. 2018 But the gains have been modest and online stalking laws remain seriously under enforced around the country. Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY, "Capital Gazette gunman constantly harassed journalists on Twitter. Why wasn't he stopped?," 29 June 2018 There were a few small signs of progress in minority hiring: There are modest but hopeful signs of success in hiring, where our focus is on reaching greater workforce representation of women globally, and for Black and Latinx Googlers in the U.S. Terrell Jermaine Starr, The Root, "Google Has A Hard Time Keeping Black Employees," 16 June 2018 Ultimately, the evidence against acrylamide is pretty modest and limited to animal studies. Jenny Splitter, SELF, "How Worried Do You Need to Be About Those Cancer Warnings for Your Coffee?," 13 June 2018 When asked about his honesty, the young man was modest about the tale and quietly said he was just brought up that way. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Good Samaritan turns over bag of 4,000 quarters after it falls off armored truck in Wauwatosa," 13 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

17 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

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

: 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 \

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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