tac·​i·​turn ˈta-sə-ˌtərn How to pronounce taciturn (audio)
: temperamentally disinclined to talk
taciturnity noun

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How should you use taciturn?

Taciturn shows up in English in the first half of the 18th century. James Miller, a British clergyman educated at Oxford, gives an early example of its use in his 1734 satiric drama, wherein a character describes a nephew with the following: "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 Latin 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 at least the mid-17th century. And we've had the noun taciturnity, meaning "habitual silence," since at least the mid-15th century.

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of taciturn in a Sentence

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
The pipe-smoking Malcolm Cowley … though a faithful fellow-traveller, was too taciturn usually to show his hand. Mary McCarthy, Granta 27, Summer 1989
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
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
a somewhat taciturn young man a taciturn man, he almost never initiates a conversation
Recent Examples on the Web The impertinent Squirrel Nutkin, who plagues a taciturn old owl with incessant riddles and rhymes, doesn’t know his place in the natural hierarchy. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2024 Image Addressing the audience at the recent Fall Out Boy concert, Mr. Stump recalled his taciturn stage persona in the band’s early years, and said that Mr. Benjamin had helped change that. Alex Williams, New York Times, 7 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for taciturn 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'taciturn.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1734, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of taciturn was in 1734


Dictionary Entries Near taciturn

Cite this Entry

“Taciturn.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/taciturn. Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


tac·​i·​turn ˈtas-ə-ˌtərn How to pronounce taciturn (audio)
: tending to not speak
taciturnity noun

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