adjective ret·i·cent \ˈre-tə-sənt\

Definition of reticent

  1. 1 :  inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech :  reserved

  2. 2 :  restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance the room has an aspect of reticent dignity — A. N. Whitehead

  3. 3 :  reluctant



reticent was our Word of the Day on 11/24/2008. Hear the podcast!

Examples of reticent in a sentence

  1. … his friends and associates are conspicuously reticent to discuss him in public. —Martin Flanagan, Manchester Guardian Weekly, 29 Dec. 1991

  2. … two or three rather reticent abstract paintings. —Jay Jacobs, Gourmet, January 1979

  3. 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

  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

Did You Know?

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

First Known Use: 1825

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


adjective ret·i·cent \ˈre-tə-sənt\

Definition of reticent for English Language Learners

  • : not willing to tell people about things

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up reticent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


feeling or affected by lethargy

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