1. Inclined to keep one's thoughts, feelings, and personal affairs to oneself. See Synonyms at laconic.
2. Restrained or reserved: “The laughter was steady, if reticent” (Bernard Lown).
3. Usage Problem Reluctant; unwilling.
[Latin reticēns, reticent-, present participle of reticēre, to keep silent : re-, re- + tacēre, to be silent.]
reti·cence (-səns) adv.
Usage Note: Reticent is generally used to indicate a reluctance to speak or divulge one's thoughts or feelings. Many commentators on usage have criticized its extended use to indicate other kinds of reluctance, including a reluctance to act. In our 2017 survey, 79 percent of the Usage Panel found unacceptable the sentence A lot of out-of-towners are reticent to come to the Twin Cities for a ballgame if there's a chance the game will be rained out. · When it is used in its standard meaning, “reluctant to speak,” reticent traditionally doesn't take an infinitive phrase with to as a complement, as in I was reticent to tell my colleagues where I would be spending my vacation. Over the past fifty years, though, this construction has become more common, and it enjoys a degree of approval—in our 2017 survey, 63 percent of the Panel accepted the sentence above. But since reticence is already about speaking or communication, reticent to tell is redundant and suggests that the writer has blurred reticent and reluctant. Many of our Panelists commented that reluctant would be a better choice: I was reluctant to tell my colleagues where I would be spending my vacation. Another option is to recast the sentence without an infinitive phrase: With my colleagues, I was reticent about where I would be spending my vacation or I was reticent about my vacation plans.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.