reticent

adjective
ret·​i·​cent | \ ˈre-tə-sənt How to pronounce reticent (audio) \

Essential Meaning of reticent

: not willing to tell people about things a quiet, reticent [=reserved] person

Full Definition of reticent

1 : inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech : reserved
2 : restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance the room has an aspect of reticent dignity— A. N. Whitehead
3 : reluctant

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Other Words from reticent

reticently adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

The History of Reticent Is Less Than 200 Years Old

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.

Examples of reticent in a Sentence

… his friends and associates are conspicuously reticent to discuss him in public. — Martin Flanagan, Manchester Guardian Weekly, 29 Dec. 1991 … two or three rather reticent abstract paintings. — Jay Jacobs, Gourmet, January 1979 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 the panel decided to investigate the fraud charges against the company, which has always been reticent about its internal operations her husband is by nature a reticent person, and she resigned herself to that fact long ago
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Recent Examples on the Web While the department has historically been reticent to use its prosecution power against witnesses found in contempt of Congress, the circumstances are exceptional as lawmakers investigate the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol in two centuries. Mary Clare Jalonick, Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker, Anchorage Daily News, 21 Oct. 2021 Lee, who can be quite reticent, is learning to create characters and let her emotions flow as a dancer. Mary Colurso | Mcolurso@al.com, al, 13 Oct. 2021 Maybe Preller was reticent to dip into his club’s prospect pool to make a trade for a pitcher. Bernie Pleskoff, Forbes, 29 Sep. 2021 Nick appears withdrawn and reticent to hear Bloom's character, even as Alex approaches to defuse the tension. Alexia Fernández, PEOPLE.com, 6 Oct. 2021 Pacifique plays with intimacy in this reticent relationship. Jamie Lang, Variety, 24 Sep. 2021 Toyota has sounded reticent about joining the race to go all-electric, preferring to concentrate for the time being on hybrid cars and SUVs, and a notable investment in hydrogen fuel cells. Neil Winton, Forbes, 12 Sep. 2021 If the show falters, other shows may be reticent about following suit. Paul Grein, Billboard, 24 Aug. 2021 Both companies have adopted an ethos of looking to the long-term over immediate gains, and both can be extremely reticent. Washington Post, 18 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'reticent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of reticent

1825, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for reticent

Latin reticent-, reticens, present participle of reticēre to keep silent, from re- + tacēre to be silent — more at tacit

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The first known use of reticent was in 1825

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Last Updated

23 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Reticent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reticent. Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

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