adjective, coy·er, coy·est.

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 formscoy·ish, adjectivecoy·ish·ness, nouncoy·ly, adverbcoy·ness, nouno·ver·coy, adjectiveo·ver·coy·ly, adverbo·ver·coy·ness, nounun·coy, adjectiveun·coy·ly, adverbun·coy·ness, noun

Synonyms for coy Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for coyness

diffidence, modesty, demureness, timidity, reserve

Examples from the Web for coyness

Historical Examples of coyness

  • 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.

  • I say, were I her equal, I could find in this shyness coyness, and in that coyness love.


    Charlotte Bront

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 Formscoyish, adjectivecoyly, adverbcoyness, noun

Word Origin for coy

C14: from Old French coi reserved, from Latin quiētus quiet
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

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