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[mod-ist] /ˈmɒd ɪst/
having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one's merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions.
free from ostentation or showy extravagance:
a modest house.
having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent:
a modest neckline on a dress.
limited or moderate in amount, extent, etc.:
a modest increase in salary.
Origin of modest
1555-65; < Latin modestus restrained, decorous, equivalent to modes- (stem of *modus, an s-stem akin to modus mode1, perhaps < *medos, with the vowel of modus; compare moderārī to moderate, from the same noun stem) + -tus adj. suffix
Related forms
modestly, adverb
hypermodest, adjective
hypermodestly, adverb
hypermodestness, noun
overmodest, adjective
overmodestly, adverb
pseudomodest, adjective
pseudomodestly, adverb
quasi-modest, adjective
quasi-modestly, adverb
supermodest, adjective
supermodestly, adverb
unmodest, adjective
unmodestly, adverb
1. retiring, unassuming. 1, 2. unpretentious, unobtrusive. 3. pure, virtuous. Modest, demure, prudish imply conformity to propriety and decorum, and a distaste for anything coarse or loud. Modest implies a becoming shyness, sobriety, and proper behavior: a modest, self-respecting person. Demure implies a bashful, quiet simplicity, staidness, and decorum; but can also indicate an assumed or affected modesty: a demure young chorus girl. Prudish suggests an exaggeratedly self-conscious modesty or propriety in behavior or conversation of one who wishes to be thought of as easily shocked and who often is intolerant: a prudish objection to a harmless remark.
3. bold, coarse. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for modest
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • As to the women of the peones, their dress is generally sombre-hued and modest.

    Mexico Charles Reginald Enock
  • Our hero listened with modest pleasure while it was being read.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • On one side is Hans Sachs's modest shoemaker's shop, on the other the entrance to Pogner's stately dwelling.

  • Tell you what the trouble is with you, old man: you're too modest.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • She behaved in a modest manner and put on no airs, for did she not know that she was dressed in the latest fashion?

    Sandman's Goodnight Stories Abbie Phillips Walker
British Dictionary definitions for modest


having or expressing a humble opinion of oneself or one's accomplishments or abilities
reserved or shy: modest behaviour
not ostentatious or pretentious
not extreme or excessive; moderate
decorous or decent
Derived Forms
modestly, adverb
Word Origin
C16: via Old French from Latin modestus moderate, from modusmode
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for modest

1560s, "having moderate self-regard," from Middle French modeste (14c.), from Latin modestus "keeping due measure" (see modesty). Of women, "not improper or lewd," 1590s; of female attire, 1610s. Of demands, etc., c.1600. Related: Modestly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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