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

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Synonyms for modicum


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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 Madoff humbly asks this court for a modicum of compassion. Caitlin Yilek, Washington Examiner, "Bernie Madoff seeks early release from prison, claiming he has less than two years to live," 6 Feb. 2020 But for a taste of the future — and a modicum of hope — there’s nothing like Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Westchester County. New York Times, "Where Should You Eat in New York? Go to These Favorite Spots," 26 Sep. 2019 Watching the Mandalorian face off against a horde of Jawas or battle a hairy desert beast (with the assistance of his alien quarry, who possesses some modicum of Jedi power) had more pure, joyful energy than the dreary first episode. David Sims, The Atlantic, "How The Mandalorian Can Work for Disney+," 18 Nov. 2019 After a modicum of dodging from the cast and insisting that Schitt's Creek didn't need to be defined by national borders, creator and star Dan Levy finally revealed to Buzzfeed News that Schitt's Creek is set in Canada. Leah Marilla Thomas,, "Wait A Minute, Where Is Schitt’s Creek Actually Supposed To Be?," 8 Jan. 2020 The only places offering a modicum of security for undocumented migrants were the slums, known as bangas, that spilled up the hillsides behind the coastal towns, where the paths were too steep or too narrow to allow police vehicles to enter. Tommy Trenchard, Harper's magazine, "Oceans Apart," 6 Jan. 2020 Indeed, thanks in no small part to these 10 high points that brought clarity, honesty and a modicum of joy to the big picture. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "2019 pop culture Top 10: High points include Greta Thunberg, Lizzo, Baby Yoda," 27 Dec. 2019 And sometimes, in the midst of tragedy, preparation can supply a modicum of comfort., "Fisher Agencies sells life insurance, funeral coverage, and rent and mortgage protection policies. But for owner Laura Fisher, the company’s real business is giving people a little bit of security when things are at their worst. She says this mission also drives the agency’s 60 representatives.," 15 Nov. 2019 Some parts of the Bay Area, including downtown San Francisco, could receive a modicum of dampness again Friday morning before the clouds yield to mostly sunny skies with a smattering of clouds over the weekend. Michael Cabanatuan,, "Weather outlook: Tiny drizzle, then dry and more dry," 15 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for modicum

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

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Last Updated

14 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Modicum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce modicum (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of modicum

formal : a small amount

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