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


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

These strings, the UCSB scientists believe, could hold up either end of the wormhole and provide a modicum of stability. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "How to Build a Wormhole," 27 Aug. 2019 In the meantime, Boehm is discovering an unexpected modicum of viral fame; even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter to the burger situation. Raisa Bruner, Time, "'It Was a Startling and Terrifying Experience Running Into That Burger.' Meet the Man Behind the Internet's New Favorite Mystery," 23 July 2019 Castelli, who had earned a modicum of renown as a standout teen soccer player, was in season 5, set in Capetown, South Africa. Jason Parham, WIRED, "When Influencers Switch Platforms—and Bare It All," 19 Aug. 2019 More by Willie Brown Trump managed to act with a modicum of dignity, even respectability, in Dayton. Willie Brown,, "Trump appears to enjoy pushing race button, regardless of topic," 10 Aug. 2019 The quarterback landscape feels secure now, with almost every club enjoying some modicum of (relative) stability from a recent draftee or entrenched veteran. Conor Orr,, "OK, OK, But How Much Would Tom Brady Get From a New Team in Free Agency?," 6 Aug. 2019 The federal courts have exercised some modicum of restraint on the Trump administration’s vigorous targeting of immigrant non-citizens living in the United States today as well as its border policies for asylum seekers. Ed Burmila, The New Republic, "If Trump wanted to give himself sweeping new powers, could anyone stop him?," 13 June 2019 There is no possibility of movement, no meaningful acknowledgment that a modicum of hope about the end of absurd human division is baked into the very soul of a great American musical. Chris Jones,, "No changes of heart at all in this chilly 'My Fair Lady' at Lincoln Center on Broadway," 20 Apr. 2018 That head: with a modicum of lines, Schulz produced an untouched, capacious orb on which a world of expression could play. Nicole Rudick, The New Yorker, "How “Peanuts” Created a Space for Thinking," 6 Aug. 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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Statistics for modicum

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

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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

formal : a small amount

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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