mo·​di·​cum | \ˈmä-di-kəm also ˈmō- \

Definition of modicum 

: a small portion : a limited quantity had only a modicum of mathematical skills

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Synonyms for modicum


beans, bubkes (also bupkes), continental, damn, darn (also durn), diddly [slang], diddly-squat [slang], doodley-squat (or doodly-squat), fig, ghost, hoot, iota, jot, lick, rap, squat [slang], syllable, tittle, whit, whoop

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The Origins of Modicum Can Be Found in the Bathroom

What does "modicum" have to do with a toilet? It just so happens that "modicum" shares the same Latin parent as "commode," which is a synonym of "toilet." "Modicum" and "commode" ultimately derive from the Latin noun modus, which means "measure." "Modicum" has been a part of the English language since the 15th century. It descends from the Latin modicus ("moderate"), which is itself a descendant of "modus." (Logically enough, "modicum" refers to a small "measure" of something.) "Modus" really measures up as a Latin root - it also gave us "mode" (originally a kind of musical "measure"), "modal," "model," "modern," "modify," and "modulate." More distant relatives include "mete," "moderate," and "modest."

Examples of modicum in a Sentence

only a modicum of skill is necessary to put the kit together

Recent Examples on the Web

Only in Illinois would a major election year bring at least a modicum of normalcy, with lawmakers approving a full-year state budget both Republicans and Democrats call balanced and one that Gov. Bruce Rauner will approve. Rick Pearson,, "Rauner decision to sign state budget avoids election-year repeat of historic feud," 1 June 2018 If restoring a modicum of traditional underwriting by loosening the Affordable Care Act’s strict age-rating rule discriminated against the old, then ObamaCare was—and is—discriminating against the young. Jason Lewis, WSJ, "Who Lost The House? John McCain," 11 Nov. 2018 Diners get a modicum of the meaty flavor distinguished by the slightly chewy texture. Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle, "Che Fico lives up to hype as most anticipated newcomer," 8 June 2018 The Cougars managed a modicum of momentum with a 6-1 run that began early in the third frame and continued until Long got them to within 11-9, with 4:51 remaining. Aaron Carter,, "Strath Haven tops Springfield Delco in boys' lacrosse PIAA state quarterfinals," 2 June 2018 America has been the world’s policeman, the guarantor of a modicum of restraint from the world’s despots and fanatics. Tony Abbott, WSJ, "An Ally Sizes Up Donald Trump," 13 July 2018 There are nine cornerbacks on the roster, but other than Peterson, only a couple have even a modicum of starting experience. Kent Somers, USA TODAY, "Cardinals training camp questions: Can Sam Bradford stay healthy, hold down starting job?," 27 June 2018 There are 10 cornerbacks on the roster, but other than Peterson, only a couple have even a modicum of starting experience. Kent Somers, azcentral, "Arizona Cardinals' big questions loom as minicamps and OTAs continue," 9 May 2018 DD214 Chronicle has a modicum of advertisers from area colleges, funeral homes, realtors and attorneys. Brian Albrecht,, "Veterans' stories don't end with military discharge in the DD214 Chronicle (photos,video)," 2 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'modicum.' 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 modicum

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for modicum

Middle English, from Latin, neuter of modicus moderate, from modus measure

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Statistics for modicum

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for modicum

The first known use of modicum was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of modicum

: a small amount

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Comments on modicum

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living or existing for a long time

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