Trending: reticent

Lookups spiked 2,300% on May 21, 2019

Why are people looking up reticent?

Reticent spiked on May 21, 2019, after CNN first reported the apparent reluctance of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team to seeing him testify before Congress. According to their report:

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has expressed reticence to him testifying publicly in front of the House Judiciary Committee

The headline for CNN's article, however, used the word hesitant rather than reticent:

Special counsel's team hesitant about Mueller testifying publicly, part of hold up securing testimony

What does reticent mean?

The oldest meaning of reticence is "the quality or state of being inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech," a synonym of "reserve" and "restraint." Over time, it came to mean, more broadly, "an instance of being restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance."

The word's meaning then broadened again to be a synonym of reluctance, indicating usage that goes beyond verbal restraint.

Where does reticent come from?

Reticence traces back to the Latin verb reticēre, meaning "to keep silent," made up from re- + tacēre ("to be silent"), which is also the root of tacit.

What is notable about this use of reticent?

Many people wish that the reticence and reticent had retained their “silent, uncommunicative” meanings, and find that the use of either to refer to “reluctance” is unseemly. While these new senses may have strayed somewhat from their etymology, there is no doubt that they are now firmly part of our language. We have been using this word in a “reluctant” sense since the 19th century.

He adds that $6,000,000 of bonds under his recent $25,000,000 offer are still lacking and intimates that until these bonds have been offered he will be reticent to extend further aid.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10 Dec. 1899


The wheat market quieted down yesterday. Growers are exhibiting a reticence to dispose of their crops in hopes of better prices on account of the Transvaal war.
The Daily Ledger (Tacoma, WA), 13 Nov. 1899

Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.

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