adjective ret·i·cent \ ˈre-tə-sənt \
|Updated on: 11 Jul 2018

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
3 : reluctant



Examples of reticent in a Sentence

  1. … his friends and associates are conspicuously reticent to discuss him in public. —Martin FlanaganManchester Guardian Weekly29 Dec. 1991
  2. … two or three rather reticent abstract paintings. —Jay JacobsGourmetJanuary 1979
  3. An extremely reticent man, Morris does not like to talk about his experience in personal terms. —Helen DudarNew York Times Magazine30 Oct. 1977
  4. the panel decided to investigate the fraud charges against the company, which has always been reticent about its internal operations

  5. her husband is by nature a reticent person, and she resigned herself to that fact long ago

Recent Examples of reticent from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of reticent

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

RETICENT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of reticent for English Language Learners

  • : not willing to tell people about things

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