adjective tac·i·turn \ˈta-sə-ˌtərn\

Definition of taciturn

  1. :  temperamentally disinclined to talk


play \ˌta-sə-ˈtər-nə-tē\ noun

taciturn was our Word of the Day on 12/14/2011. Hear the podcast!

Examples of taciturn in a sentence

  1. I went on speech strike … remaining defiantly taciturn through a procession of speech therapists and psychotherapists, verbalizing only to the gardener and swearing him to silence. —Simon Schama, New Republic, 22 July 2002

  2. The pipe-smoking Malcolm Cowley … though a faithful fellow-traveller, was too taciturn usually to show his hand. —Mary McCarthy, Granta 27, Summer 1989

  3. She was a small, taut, pale, wiry London girl, alarmingly taciturn, demon at basketball (at which she captained us) … —Elizabeth Bowen, The Mulberry Tree, 1986

  4. When he got to the substation that night, this private taciturn fellow had to spill his guts. If he didn't tell somebody, he might blow like a land mine. —Joseph Wambaugh, Lines and Shadows, 1984

  5. a somewhat taciturn young man

  6. a taciturn man, he almost never initiates a conversation

Did You Know?

We first find "taciturn" in a satiric drama written in 1734 by James Miller, a British clergyman educated at Oxford. A character describes a nephew thus: "When he was little, he never was what they call Roguish or Waggish, but was always close, quiet, and taciturn." It seems we waited unduly long to adopt this useful descendent of the verb tacēre, meaning "to be silent" - we were quicker to adopt other words from the "tacēre" family. We’ve been using "tacit," an adjective meaning "expressed without words" or "implied," since the mid-17th century. And we’ve had the noun taciturnity, meaning "habitual silence," since at least 1450.

Origin and Etymology of taciturn

French or Latin; French taciturne, from Middle French, from Latin taciturnus, from tacitus —see tacit

First Known Use: 1734

Synonym Discussion of taciturn

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

TACITURN Defined for English Language Learners


adjective tac·i·turn \ˈta-sə-ˌtərn\

Definition of taciturn for English Language Learners

  • : tending to be quiet : not speaking frequently

Seen and Heard

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a trip made at another's expense

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