1
2
3
4

shy

2 of 2

verb

Synonym Chooser

How does the adjective shy contrast with its synonyms?

Some common synonyms of shy are bashful, coy, diffident, and modest. While all these words mean "not inclined to be forward," shy implies a timid reserve and a shrinking from familiarity or contact with others.

shy with strangers

When can bashful be used instead of shy?

The words bashful and shy are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, bashful implies a frightened or hesitant shyness characteristic of childhood and adolescence.

a bashful boy out on his first date

When might coy be a better fit than shy?

While the synonyms coy and shy are close in meaning, coy implies a pretended shyness.

put off by her coy manner

In what contexts can diffident take the place of shy?

In some situations, the words diffident and shy are roughly equivalent. However, diffident stresses a distrust of one's own ability or opinion that causes hesitation in acting or speaking.

felt diffident about raising an objection

When could modest be used to replace shy?

The meanings of modest and shy largely overlap; however, modest suggests absence of undue confidence or conceit.

modest about her success

Cite this Entry

“Shy.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/shy. Accessed 5 Dec. 2022.

More from Merriam-Webster on shy

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ