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  1. having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one's merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions.
  2. free from ostentation or showy extravagance: a modest house.
  3. having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent: a modest neckline on a dress.
  4. 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 formsmod·est·ly, adverbhy·per·mod·est, adjectivehy·per·mod·est·ly, adverbhy·per·mod·est·ness, nouno·ver·mod·est, adjectiveo·ver·mod·est·ly, adverbpseu·do·mod·est, adjectivepseu·do·mod·est·ly, adverbqua·si-mod·est, adjectivequa·si-mod·est·ly, adverbsu·per·mod·est, adjectivesu·per·mod·est·ly, adverbun·mod·est, adjectiveun·mod·est·ly, adverb

Synonyms for modest

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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.

Antonyms for modest Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for modest

Contemporary Examples of modest

Historical Examples of modest

  • The face, neck, and arms of the modest maiden were flushed with indignant crimson.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Our hero listened with modest pleasure while it was being read.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

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

  • He's as boyishly honest as if he were sixteen; and as modest.

  • Few could imagine from his modest exterior the latent, fire and energy which burn in his bosom.


    Scian Dubh

British Dictionary definitions for modest


  1. having or expressing a humble opinion of oneself or one's accomplishments or abilities
  2. reserved or shymodest behaviour
  3. not ostentatious or pretentious
  4. not extreme or excessive; moderate
  5. decorous or decent
Derived Formsmodestly, adverb

Word Origin for modest

C16: via Old French from Latin modestus moderate, from modus mode
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 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