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 But as the Wings gained a modicum of health, their play improved, and the losing streaks grew shorter. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Red Wings see themselves as spoilers as NHL playoffs approach," 23 Mar. 2021 Why wasn't their fighter — a local favorite enjoying a modicum of success — being given a chance to fight the best middleweights in the world? Tim Dahlberg, Star Tribune, "Column: Marvelous Marvin Hagler got his break and cashed in," 15 Mar. 2021 While one of the only tools commissioner Roger Goodell could utilize, the exempt list, hasn't been used in the offseason before, putting Watson on it would send the message the NFL has at least a modicum of interest in the issue. Mike Freeman, USA TODAY, "Opinion: How many women does it take, NFL, before you take action against Deshaun Watson?," 7 Apr. 2021 These makeshift shelters provide migrants with food, a bed, showers—and a modicum of protection against the corrupt officials, cartels and criminals who are making a fortune exploiting those fleeing persecution or seeking a better life in America. Jillian Kay Melchior, WSJ, "God and the Border Crisis," 11 Apr. 2021 And the Heat, Warriors, Lakers and any other organization that harbored even a modicum of hope of landing the two-time Most Valuable Player in free agency next offseason. Dallas News, "Giannis Antetokounmpo is staying in Milwaukee, and that’s not necessarily bad news for the Mavericks," 15 Dec. 2020 Regulation—at least a modicum of accountability—is the only way to begin reducing emissions through agriculture. Charlie Mitchell, The New Republic, "The Farming Lobby’s Cunning Plan to Fight Climate Change—and Regulation," 2 Apr. 2021 Really, the only areas where Chicago had any modicum of success were in transition (25 fast-break points) and, as a result, near the rim (62 points in the paint). Eric Walden, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah Jazz’s defense roars back to life, as they crush the Bulls in road trip finale," 22 Mar. 2021 We are given to ask what modicum of self-awareness might a man like Peter have in regards to not only his actions but his retribution. Sarah-tai Black, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘Rose Plays Julie’ is a deep journey into an adoptee’s inception," 18 Mar. 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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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

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Modicum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of modicum

formal : a small amount

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