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

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." (We borrowed the noun commode from the French, who also used the word as an adjective meaning "suitable, convenient.") Modicum, which, logically enough, refers to a small "measure" of something, 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. 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 Unlike many other college football programs, Notre Dame at least has a modicum of integrity and self-respect. Mike Bianchi,, 1 Dec. 2021 The Taliban might agree to, say, ruling with at least a modicum of toleration and forbearance, keeping a lid on anti-American extremists, ending reprisals against government workers, allowing the few Americans left to evacuate, and so on. Ryan Cooper, The Week, 31 Aug. 2021 If the cloud processing has any modicum of delay, this might be of little consequence. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 16 June 2021 In more normal times, a Fed Chairman might have been expected to offer at least a modicum of support for other Fed officials in public—the institution prizes consensus and collegiality. Christopher Leonard, Fortune, 22 Nov. 2021 Economists were hopeful there would be a reversal of the trend this September as many schools reopened and vaccinations helped the nation return to a modicum of normalcy. Anneken Tappe, CNN, 8 Nov. 2021 Most people with a modicum of exposure to advertising, brand management, or agencies are familiar with the creative brief: the core strategic document that is meant to guide the creative team on the preparation of the advertising execution. Derek Rucker, Forbes, 10 Sep. 2021 For her part, Jasmine harbors at least a modicum of warm feelings about her time in the group. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 5 Nov. 2021 The Danchenko indictment shows that if a modicum of fair-minded investigation had been done, a borderline competent FBI agent would quickly have spotted its glaring weaknesses. The Editors, National Review, 6 Nov. 2021

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

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Modicum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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English Language Learners Definition of modicum

: a small amount

More from Merriam-Webster on modicum

Nglish: Translation of modicum for Spanish Speakers


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