Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Inclined to keep one's thoughts, feelings, and personal affairs to oneself. See Synonyms at silent.
  • adj. Restrained or reserved in style.
  • adj. Reluctant; unwilling.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Keeping one's thoughts and opinions to oneself; reserved or restrained.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Inclined to keep silent; reserved; uncommunicative.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Disposed to be silent; reserved; not apt to speak about or reveal any matters: as, he is very reticent about his affairs.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. reluctant to draw attention to yourself
  • adj. temperamentally disinclined to talk
  • adj. cool and formal in manner

Etymologies

Latin reticēns, reticent-, present participle of reticēre, to keep silent : re-, re- + tacēre, to be silent.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Latin reticens, present participle of reticere ("to keep silence"); re- + tacere ("to be silent"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Havel has been described as a reticent, modest, honest, courageous and a Renaissance man -- a man filled with a moral vision of what the quality of life should be for all people.

    Lee Bycel: The Legacy of Vaclav Havel

  • Mr. Catlin, who could hardly be called reticent, at once made plain his feeling about the Missouri, the river that was to carry them some two thousand miles into the mysterious reaches of the West.

    The Berrybender Narratives

  • Maria C. of Jersey City, NJ writes in with today's Mailbag Friday question: "My coworker always uses the word reticent when he really means reluctant.

    Visual Thesaurus : Online Edition

  • That caricature had faded away over the years, along with the stories of his brutal on-set perfectionism, replaced by a picture of a marginalized but respected industry elder whom journalists and collaborators have described as reticent and not especially prone to introspection.

    NYT > Global Home

  • Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan told parliament Thursday the government was " reticent " to protect the taxpayer ' s interest.

    Ireland

  • The story also points out that this is at odds with the constant claim that McCain is "reticent" to discuss that past.

    Republican National Convention

  • In Chausson, the result is a kind of reticent grandeur that I've always found intriguing.

    Archive 2007-01-01

  • But in speaking with a former homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, she said that they might be kind of reticent about doing much of anything.

    CNN Transcript Aug 24, 2009

  • The former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius has proclaimed himself to be rather "reticent" on the subject does he mean ambivalent?

    What on earth are the French up to?

  • MR. MCCURRY: Well I don't -- "reticent" is your word, not necessarily our word.

    Press Briefing By Mike Mccurry

Comments

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  • I don't kow if this comment meets your guidelines for a contribution, but here goes! I find that people nowadays are using reticent as a synonym for reluctant (e.g. John is reticent to show emotion in public). But only one of your cited definitions for reticent mentions reluctant (American Heritage's 3rd citation) - and not as the preferred meaning. My comment I guess is about people's misuse of this word. My gut feeling is that US English speakers choose 'reticent' because it sounds fancier than good old simpler 'reluctant.'

    April 2, 2009

  • reluctant to speak.

    December 24, 2006