Definition of modest in US English:



  • 1Unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one's abilities or achievements.

    ‘he was a very modest man, refusing to take any credit for the enterprise’
    • ‘He's quite modest about this fact, because he likes to think of himself as a humble slacker from the suburbs.’
    • ‘It is also little wonder that most serious scientists tend to be modest about their ability to forecast large-scale climate changes.’
    • ‘Thankful that she has the health, and the will to do most of the things she hankers after in life, nevertheless she is modest about her abilities.’
    • ‘Though he was very modest about his business abilities, no one can deny the renown he has won as a mariner.’
    • ‘We are trying to hone in on the talent, focus on the best stories, and we try to be low-key and modest about our role.’
    • ‘He is a quiet, unassuming lad and so modest about his many talents.’
    • ‘Adamson can be modest about his athletic ability because it's only one ingredient in his adventure-contest success.’
    • ‘Butch was also modest about his playing ability.’
    • ‘Despite her handiwork having decorated the entire village for many carnivals, Wendy remains modest about her achievement.’
    • ‘She became conductor soon after, but is modest about her role in the band.’
    • ‘He's modest about his achievements, self-effacing about his music and finds an old-fashioned dignity in hard work.’
    • ‘Quiet, unassuming, modest, but they get the job done with no fuss.’
    • ‘He believed in raditional virtues - he was a man of the people, he was never high-handed about himself, he was often too modest about his achievements.’
    • ‘Despite the magnitude of her work, I find Kate surprisingly down to earth and genuinely modest about the achievements she will leave behind when she hands over the reins on her 65th birthday.’
    • ‘He was kind, generous and always modest about his achievements.’
    • ‘Why is he so modest about his own contribution to the process?’
    • ‘After the first couple of hours of riding, Elizabeth had a suspicion that Andrew had been modest about his riding ability.’
    • ‘In person, they're wonderful conversationalists that are modest about their achievements and passionate about their artistic pursuits.’
    • ‘But Rosanna is a little more modest about her achievements.’
    • ‘We also need to be modest about our ability to find the answers for other societies.’
    self-effacing, self-deprecating, humble, unpretentious, unassuming, unpresuming, unostentatious, low-key, free from vanity, keeping one's light under a bushel
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  • 2(of an amount, rate, or level) relatively moderate, limited, or small.

    ‘drink modest amounts of alcohol’
    ‘employment growth was relatively modest’
    • ‘If a relatively modest amount of money was spent now, the maintenance costs for the future would be no more than for a new building.’
    • ‘But there is also a big market in contemporary art and for modest amounts you can buy colourful, decorative pieces relatively cheaply.’
    • ‘This slowdown would be reinforced by a more modest rate of increase in house prices spreading across the country.’
    • ‘‘She does not accept that she was drunk, although she had consumed a modest amount of alcohol,’ said Mr Murphy.’
    • ‘Average rental values this year should at best increase by a modest amount but will probably be fairly static, the report said.’
    • ‘My car has surprisingly poor traction, even in rather modest curves at moderate speeds.’
    • ‘The relatively modest amount of silver used probably explains the bowl's survival.’
    • ‘It has led to a modest rate increase of about 1 per cent over the past year, compared to the steady decline last year.’
    • ‘A relatively modest amount of money could fund programs that would have a significant impact on smoking in Canada and allow those looking to quit to find help.’
    • ‘Alcohol in modest amounts may have a protective effect on bone density, but sustained high consumption causes bone loss.’
    • ‘‘We would argue that the toll levels are being set at relatively modest levels,’ Tobin said.’
    • ‘Most, however, are living off the income derived from a relatively modest amount of capital - the equivalent of a few million baht rather than tens let alone hundreds of millions.’
    • ‘Australia has long had a remarkably good university system, and used relatively modest levels of public investment in higher education very effectively.’
    • ‘Some people who have not had a problem with alcohol use may be permitted by their doctor to use a modest amount of alcohol while taking one of the newer antidepressants.’
    • ‘As the economy slows to very modest levels of growth, cutting interest rates is a prime mechanism for boosting economic output.’
    • ‘He said it was accepted that spending would increase at modest rates.’
    • ‘By extension, adaptation theory should be able to tolerate at least modest amounts of correlation among fitness values.’
    • ‘Their boards give them stock options but in relatively modest amounts.’
    • ‘This reflected a trend in the 1920s for ‘a modest rate’ of increase in the number of companies producing group information.’
    • ‘Let's find the relatively modest amounts needed to fund things people want, and let's do it without chopping away at other programs with an axe.’
    moderate, fair, tolerable, passable, adequate, satisfactory, acceptable, unexceptional, small
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    1. 2.1 (of a place in which one lives, eats, or stays) not excessively large, elaborate, or expensive.
      ‘we had bought a modest house’
      • ‘Deep in the heart of New Malden, in a modest semi-detached house near the A3, lies an extraordinary assortment of show business treasures.’
      • ‘My earliest memories are formed by two houses: a modest white one on the edge of an Orkney loch, and a larger pink one looking out across the Cromarty Firth.’
      • ‘About 260 homes, ranging from modest to expensive, were destroyed.’
      • ‘Born in Mede, he lived with his wife and children in a modest group of houses built in the traditional style and situated on the outskirts of the village.’
      • ‘There was no sign of forced entry and the chemical plant worker's fishing boat was parked outside the modest, one-story brick house.’
      • ‘They take great pride in showing their houses, modest flats on the outside, but inside renovated kitchens and bathrooms and all the mod cons amongst the religious icons.’
      • ‘The police clearly took the reports of a similar find in Australia seriously, and last Friday Sydney police launched a dawn raid on a modest two-storey house in the suburbs.’
      • ‘On his books, this, well, rather modest house, is worth around $1.5 million.’
      • ‘Our venue became too expensive for our modest means.’
      • ‘Their modest house, in an underbuilt new neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, stood baking in the relentless yellow light of midday.’
      • ‘Through the darkness I could make out a modest, tan coloured house with an overgrown garden and grubby looking shudders drooping from the windows.’
      • ‘‘There is only so much you can do from the spare rooms of a modest suburban house in Melbourne's eastern suburbs,’ he told them.’
      • ‘The three of them live together in a very modest, almost nondescript house on the outskirts of Princeton, across the railroad tracks.’
      • ‘Returning to her mother's modest beach house after decades of estrangement, she stops for a moment as she unpacks to listen to the pounding surf.’
      • ‘One, that someone could come from a very modest house, in a tiny little town of less than 200, and go to the very top in the United States.’
      • ‘Their simple requirements can be accommodated in a modest flat.’
      • ‘A modest postwar ranch house of anonymous character is dwarfed by a second story - clearly an addition.’
      • ‘The saving on a £200,000 property - a mansion in some parts of Scotland, a modest flat in others - would be £40,000.’
      • ‘He lives in a modest house in Wonosari, Surabaya.’
      • ‘I got a modest little house and an old pickup truck.’
      small, ordinary, simple, plain, humble, homely
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  • 3(of a woman) dressing or behaving so as to avoid impropriety or indecency, especially to avoid attracting sexual attention.

    • ‘Was I supposed to find something appropriately frilly and covered in sequins, or should I wear something demure and modest?’
    • ‘We see that one should look for a proper, modest woman to be his wife, in order to have an eternal loving relationship.’
    • ‘Me still being the modest girl I motion for Stewart to look away while I disrobed my rain soaked clothes.’
    • ‘She tells him to find a pretty and modest girl whom he respects and to wait until he's through with college, because he's not half good enough for whoever the girl is.’
    • ‘Anne is unduly modest on her blog, but she is a long-standing author of Mills and Boon romances.’
    • ‘Although tradition suggests that young Chinese women be modest, no signs of embarrassment or shyness can be read on the waitresses' faces.’
    • ‘I had a plain t-shirt underneath and I am a modest girl.’
    • ‘Be honest and diligent girls, tender and modest wives, wise mothers, and you will be good patriots.’
    • ‘Muriel, being the modest girl that she was, averted her eyes and blushed.’
    • ‘Never a modest girl at heart, I enjoyed commanding his attention.’
    • ‘But she was modest and sweet-tempered, a lady in manners and in conduct about whom there was never a word of scandal.’
    • ‘He said older women need only meet the laxer condition of dressing ‘in a modest manner.’’
    • ‘In other words, nice girls are modest and demure.’
    • ‘She was not exactly a genteel lady, but she was modest and naive in many respects.’
    1. 3.1 (of clothing) not revealing or emphasizing the figure.
      ‘modest dress means that hemlines must be below the knee’
      • ‘On the other hand, she's different, wearing a black, modest coat and remaining silent, whereas the other girl wore pale, frilly clothes and giggled.’
      • ‘My mother showed up dressed in a modest skirt and jacket along with my little brothers, Robert and Connor.’
      • ‘The Islamic rules for modest dress apply to both women and men equally.’
      • ‘Even in her prim, modest sweater and slacks, she may be the best-dressed person among them.’
      • ‘And it didn't help any that she was probably wearing something that would make his grandmother faint underneath her deceptively modest robe.’
      • ‘She was dressed in a modest suit, but looked approvingly at my dress.’
      • ‘She was roughly five feet tall, dressed in a modest green gown, and holding on to a polished black cane.’
      • ‘And of course, modest dress is expected of women when they enter a temple.’
      • ‘But it felt so strange and unnatural to me that I wished nothing more than to be back in a modest dress.’
      • ‘Some were dressed in very modest gowns, while others were practically falling out of their bodices.’
      • ‘Her shirt and skirt were still modest, even if it was torn a little.’
      • ‘Finally, I was standing in my under garments and fumbled around in the twilight for some modest clothing.’
      • ‘Women on their own would be well advised not to travel outside of these areas and to comply with local sensibilities, particularly by wearing long sleeves and modest clothing in town areas.’
      • ‘She is not only modest in her dress, but in her actions and manners as well.’
      • ‘Isabella noticed that her own neckline was lower than Gillian's modest dress.’
      • ‘Her face was alight with anticipation as she set the chalk down, reached up, and began to unfasten the top golden button to her modest daisy dress.’
      • ‘I pulled out a modest peach dress and pulled it on.’
      • ‘The dress was modest, a medium cut top, three quarter sleeve, tight bodice and a moderate skirt.’
      • ‘Muslims are accused of being over-sensitive about the human body but the degree of sexual harassment which occurs these days justifies modest dress.’
      • ‘The smiles was coquettish, fetching, and she traced the modest neck on her dress as if an invitation to seeing what was under it.’
      decorous, decent, seemly, demure, sober, severe
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Mid 16th century: from French modeste, from Latin modestus ‘keeping due measure’, related to modus ‘measure’.