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[koi] /kɔɪ/
adjective, coyer, coyest.
artfully or affectedly shy or reserved; slyly hesitant; coquettish.
shy; modest.
showing reluctance, especially when insincere or affected, to reveal one's plans or opinions, make a commitment, or take a stand:
The mayor was coy about his future political aspirations.
Archaic. disdainful; aloof.
Obsolete. quiet; reserved.
verb (used without object)
Archaic. to act in a coy manner.
verb (used with object), Obsolete.
to quiet; soothe.
to pat; caress.
Origin of coy
1300-50; Middle English < Anglo-French coi, quoy calm, Old French quei < Vulgar Latin *quētus, for Latin quiētus quiet1
Related forms
coyish, adjective
coyishness, noun
coyly, adverb
coyness, noun
overcoy, adjective
overcoyly, adverb
overcoyness, noun
uncoy, adjective
uncoyly, adverb
uncoyness, noun
2. retiring, diffident, bashful, demure. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for coyness
Historical Examples
  • For his coyness we were partly consoled by the gambols of the river-horses.

  • On his side there is no backwardness now; on hers no coyness, no mock modesty.

    The Death Shot Mayne Reid
  • It was impossible for him to forget her gentle look or the coyness of her hands.

    The Goose Man Jacob Wassermann
  • She looked up at me appealingly, though with no trace of coyness.

    The Deep Lake Mystery Carolyn Wells
  • I say, were I her equal, I could find in this shyness coyness, and in that coyness love.

    Shirley Charlotte Bront
  • The only thing that worried him now was the coyness about shooting.

    Huntingtower John Buchan
  • "He does know," she whispered, almost with the coyness of a girl.

    Brooke's Daughter Adeline Sergeant
  • This was no time for coyness, and she was too tender and true a woman to feel or to affect it.

    The Bow of Orange Ribbon Amelia E. Barr
  • After the first small shock, he had not failed to perceive the coyness of her; and why not?

    V. V.'s Eyes

    Henry Sydnor Harrison
  • He cursed the girl's fickleness, her coyness, her obstinacy!

    The Castle Inn Stanley John Weyman
British Dictionary definitions for coyness


(usually of a woman) affectedly demure, esp in a playful or provocative manner
shy; modest
evasive, esp in an annoying way
Derived Forms
coyish, adjective
coyly, adverb
coyness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French coi reserved, from Latin quiētusquiet
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 coyness



early 14c., "quiet, modest, demure," from Old French coi, earlier quei "quiet, still, placid, gentle," ultimately from Latin quietus "resting, at rest" (see quiet (n.)). Meaning "shy" emerged late 14c. Meaning "unwilling to commit" is 1961. Related: Coyly; coyness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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