ret·​i·​cent | \ ˈre-tə-sənt How to pronounce reticent (audio) \

Definition of reticent

1 : inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech : reserved
2 : restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance the room has an aspect of reticent dignity— A. N. Whitehead

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Other Words from reticent

reticently adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for reticent

silent, taciturn, reticent, reserved, secretive mean showing restraint in speaking. silent implies a habit of saying no more than is needed. the strong, silent type taciturn implies a temperamental disinclination to speech and usually connotes unsociability. taciturn villagers reticent implies a reluctance to speak out or at length, especially about one's own affairs. was reticent about his plans reserved implies reticence and suggests the restraining influence of caution or formality in checking easy informal conversational exchange. greetings were brief, formal, and reserved secretive, too, implies reticence but usually carries a suggestion of deviousness and lack of frankness or of an often ostentatious will to conceal. the secretive research and development division

The History of Reticent Is Less Than 200 Years Old

Reticent first appeared about 170 years ago, but the "reluctant" sense of "reticent" is a mid-20th century introduction. Though it is now well-established, this newer sense bothers some people, particularly because it has veered away from the word's Latin origins - "reticent" is from the verb "reticēre," meaning "to keep silent." But there is some sense in the way the newer meaning developed. We first tended to use the "reluctant" sense of "reticent" when the context was speech (as in "reticent to talk about her past"), thus keeping the word close to its "silent" sense. Eventually, however, exclusive association with speech was abandoned. Now one can be "reticent" to do anything.

Examples of reticent in a Sentence

… his friends and associates are conspicuously reticent to discuss him in public. — Martin Flanagan, Manchester Guardian Weekly, 29 Dec. 1991 … two or three rather reticent abstract paintings. — Jay Jacobs, Gourmet, January 1979 An extremely reticent man, Morris does not like to talk about his experience in personal terms. — Helen Dudar, New York Times Magazine, 30 Oct. 1977 the panel decided to investigate the fraud charges against the company, which has always been reticent about its internal operations her husband is by nature a reticent person, and she resigned herself to that fact long ago
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Recent Examples on the Web While several media outlets report DeAngelo will plead guilty to a litany of charges -- including murder, rape and kidnapping -- prosecutors and DeAngelo's defense team have been reticent on specifics. Eliott C. Mclaughlin And Stella Chan, CNN, "Accused Golden State Killer expected to enter to plea to avoid death penalty," 29 June 2020 Those who advocate for a reckoning weren't as reticent to go on the record. Amber Hunt,, "The trouble with Marge: A city grapples with one woman's loathsome legacy and her largesse," 18 June 2020 Little wonder, then, that a gaggle of often reticent players created a virtual layup line on Twitter to dunk on their overlords. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Who wants to shame a billionaire? MLB's owners won't act unless their hands are forced," 15 June 2020 Sunday’s turnout in Tokyo underlined how Japan has historically been reticent in dealing with diversity and is now trying to understand the Black Lives Matter movement and grapple with its own history of discrimination. Yuri Kageyama, The Christian Science Monitor, "From Tokyo to New Zealand, why Black lives matter," 14 June 2020 In recent months, ransomware groups have begun publicly auctioning off sensitive data accessed on compromised machines when victims are reticent to pay the ransoms. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Knoxville shuts down parts of its network after being hit by ransomware," 11 June 2020 Chinese firms indeed seem reticent to enter the U.S. market. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "Gaming giant Netease soars in Hong Kong IPO as Chinese firms look for U.S. alternative," 11 June 2020 In the meantime, GM is reticent to define a future for Warren Transmission. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "GM revived Warren plant for face mask production. What happens when demand slows?," 8 June 2020 But when the institutions that recruited us remain reticent in the face of our particular pain, the promise of inclusion rings hollow. Chijioke Nze, STAT, "Police brutality is our lane too, doctors say," 5 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'reticent.' 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 reticent

1825, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for reticent

Latin reticent-, reticens, present participle of reticēre to keep silent, from re- + tacēre to be silent — more at tacit

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The first known use of reticent was in 1825

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Last Updated

6 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Reticent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for reticent


How to pronounce reticent (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of reticent

: not willing to tell people about things

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