1 [shahy]
adjective, shyer or shier, shyest or shiest.
bashful; retiring.
easily frightened away; timid.
suspicious; distrustful: I am a bit shy of that sort of person.
reluctant; wary.
deficient: shy of funds.
scant; short of a full amount or number: still a few dollars shy of our goal; an inch shy of being six feet.
(in poker) indebted to the pot.
not bearing or breeding freely, as plants or animals.
verb (used without object), shied, shying.
(especially of a horse) to start back or aside, as in fear.
to draw back; recoil.
noun, plural shies.
a sudden start aside, as in fear.
fight shy of, to keep away from; avoid: She fought shy of making the final decision.

before 1000; late Middle English schey (adj.), early Middle English scheowe, Old English scēoh; cognate with Middle High German schiech; akin to Dutch schuw, German scheu; cf. eschew

shyer, noun
shyly, adverb
shyness, noun

1. Shy, bashful, diffident imply a manner that shows discomfort or lack of confidence in association with others. Shy implies a constitutional shrinking from contact or close association with others, together with a wish to escape notice: shy and retiring. Bashful suggests timidity about meeting others, and trepidation and awkward behavior when brought into prominence or notice: a bashful child. Diffident emphasizes self-distrust, fear of censure, failure, etc., and a hesitant, tentative manner as a consequence: a diffident approach to a touchy subject. 4. heedful, cautious, chary. 10. shrink.

1. forward. 2. trusting. 4. careless. 10. advance. Unabridged


2 [shahy]
verb (used with object), verb (used without object), shied, shying.
to throw with a swift, sudden movement: to shy a stone.
noun, plural shies.
a quick, sudden throw.
a gibe or sneer.
a try.

1780–90; origin uncertain

shyer, noun

1. toss, pitch, fling, cast, flip. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
shy1 (ʃaɪ)
adj , shyer, shyest, shier, shiest
1.  not at ease in the company of others
2.  easily frightened; timid
3.  (often foll by of) watchful or wary
4.  poker (of a player) without enough money to back his bet
5.  (of plants and animals) not breeding or producing offspring freely
6.  informal chiefly (US), (Canadian) (foll by of) short (of)
7.  (in combination) showing reluctance or disinclination: workshy
vb (usually foll by off or away) , shyer, shyest, shier, shiest, shies, shying, shied
8.  to move suddenly, as from fear: the horse shied at the snake in the road
9.  to draw back; recoil
n , shyer, shyest, shier, shiest, shies, shying, shied, shies
10.  a sudden movement, as from fear
[Old English sceoh; related to Old High German sciuhen to frighten away, Dutch schuw shy, Swedish skygg]

shy2 (ʃaɪ)
vb , shies, shying, shied
1.  to throw (something) with a sideways motion
n , shies, shying, shied, shies
2.  a quick throw
3.  informal a gibe
4.  informal an attempt; experiment
5.  short for cockshy
[C18: of Germanic origin; compare Old High German sciuhen to make timid, Middle Dutch schüchteren to chase away]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late O.E. sceoh "shy," from P.Gmc. *skeukh(w)az "afraid" (cf. M.L.G. schüwe, Du. schuw, Ger. scheu "shy;" O.H.G. sciuhen, Ger. scheuchen "to scare away"). Uncertain cognates outside Gmc., unless in O.C.S. scuti "to hunt, incite." It. schivare "to avoid" is a Gmc. loan-word. The verb meaning "to
recoil" first recorded 1650.

"to throw with a jerk or toss," 1787, colloquial, of unknown origin and uncertain connection to shy (adj.).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Abbreviations & Acronyms
Shy-Drager syndrome
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idiom beginning with shy, also see bricks shy of a load; fight shy of; once bitten, twice shy.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Lee is quiet and thoughtful and, by his own description, shy.
He's really quiet and shy, and then all of a sudden he'll drop the funniest line you've ever heard in a conversation.
For shy people, academic life is both protective and terrifying.
They tend to be a shy bunch, happiest when out on their horses.
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