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
3 : reluctant

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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 The vote is expected to draw the lines between funds willing to take a more aggressive posture on climate issues and those who are more reticent. Justin Baer, WSJ, 28 May 2021 Those who see Trump as key to Republicans' chances of taking back the House and Senate are especially reticent about combing back through key moments that could divide the party once again. Lauren Fox, Jeremy Herb And Manu Raju, CNN, 18 May 2021 And the fear of missing out may even inspire other more reticent returners to join them. David Morel, Forbes, 12 May 2021 There’s dissonance; the celebration is muted, reticent, almost secretive. New York Times, 15 Apr. 2021 Outside of the courtroom, others seem reticent to speak negatively about Apple’s business practices. Cecilia D'anastasio, Wired, 7 May 2021 Australia, perhaps most shamelessly have been reticent playing smaller nations, but after continual backlash on social media appeared to be mending its ways. Tristan Lavalette, Forbes, 18 May 2021 Why the Indian government is so reticent to share data is unclear. Priyanka Pulla, Science | AAAS, 4 May 2021 Though companies can now produce generic versions of vaccines under compulsory licensing agreements, developing countries have been reticent to do so—including during this pandemic—for fear of diplomatic blowback. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 15 Apr. 2021

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

13 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Reticent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of reticent

: not willing to tell people about things

More from Merriam-Webster on reticent

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for reticent

Nglish: Translation of reticent for Spanish Speakers


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