mo·​di·​cum | \ ˈmä-di-kəm How to pronounce modicum (audio) also ˈmō- \

Definition of modicum

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for modicum


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Trump’s election loss Nov. 3 gave Republicans a modicum of freedom, and the pandemic’s rampage through red states has moved them to act. Richard Chess,, "Covid’s Persistence Leads GOP, Democrats to Half Measures," 23 Nov. 2020 Here's how to navigate these next few post-election weeks with grace, civility and a modicum of calm. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "The election's over. Here's how to navigate the next few weeks with grace and civility," 9 Nov. 2020 Some on the front lines are now pointing to Trump’s electoral defeat as an opportunity for governors in his party to assert a modicum of independence. Washington Post, "Adopting mask mandates, some GOP governors give up the gospel of personal responsibility," 18 Nov. 2020 Public health officials greeted Moderna’s news with a modicum of excitement, especially when viewed alongside the data released last week by Pfizer, which, in collaboration with BioNTech, reported that its vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. Denise Grady, New York Times, "Early Data Show Moderna’s Coronavirus Vaccine Is 94.5% Effective," 16 Nov. 2020 Moreover, the federal government needn’t prosecute Trump to secure a modicum of justice for his criminal conduct. Harry Litman Los Angeles Times (tns), Star Tribune, "Can Trump pardon himself?," 12 Nov. 2020 In its final polling analysis, FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver said his team's 2020 national forecast featured a last-minute downgrade that serves as a modicum of good news for President Trump. Daniel Chaitin, Washington Examiner, "Biden loses 'clearly favored' rating from Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight at last minute," 3 Nov. 2020 Treinen couldn’t quite come all the way back from a disastrous 2019 that followed an epic 2018 All-Star season, but did show a modicum of reliability in posting a 3.86 ERA. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "MLB free agents: Ranking the 81 best players in the 2020-2021 class," 2 Nov. 2020 Freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak has given Missouri a modicum of balance, even if the Tigers aren’t the most intimidating offensive unit. Christopher Smith, al, "Missouri vs. Florida betting line, picks, odds and predictions," 30 Oct. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about modicum

Time Traveler for modicum

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for modicum

Last Updated

2 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Modicum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for modicum


How to pronounce modicum (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of modicum

formal : a small amount

More from Merriam-Webster on modicum

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for modicum

Nglish: Translation of modicum for Spanish Speakers

Comments on modicum

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!