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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Diffidence \Dif"fi*dence\, n. [L. diffidentia.]

  1. The state of being diffident; distrust; want of confidence; doubt of the power, ability, or disposition of others. [Archaic]

    That affliction grew heavy upon me, and weighed me down even to a diffidence of God's mercy.

  2. Distrust of one's self or one's own powers; lack of self-reliance; modesty; modest reserve; bashfulness.

    It is good to speak on such questions with diffidence.

    An Englishman's habitual diffidence and awkwardness of address.
    --W. Irving.

    Syn: Humility; bashfulness; distrust; suspicion; doubt; fear; timidity; apprehension; hesitation. See Humility, and Bashfulness.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

c.1400, from Latin diffidentia "mistrust, distrust, want of confidence," from diffidere "to mistrust, lack confidence," from dis- "away" (see dis-) + fidere "to trust" (see faith). Modern sense is of "distrusting oneself" (1650s). The original sense was the opposite of confidence.


n. 1 The state of being diffident, timid or shy; reticence or self-effacement. 2 (context obsolete English) Mistrust, distrust, lack of confidence in someone or something.


n. lack of self-confidence [syn: self-doubt, self-distrust] [ant: confidence]

Usage examples of "diffidence".

Tulliwuddle feels the natural diffidence of a lover in adequately expressing his sentiments.

Her sadness, her poetry, her little sighs, her diffidence, her pining away, were all due to the shameful conduct of one who in happier days had sought her hand, and had deserted her when fortune changed.

She expressed however an ingenuous diffidence of her capacity for the task of an instructor, and she intreated at any rate to be permitted to withdraw for a short time to dry up the tears of her disconsolate parents.

He met the confession, which his son had made in pain and diffidence, with a most deplorable want of tact.

Reason here seems to be thrown into a kind of amazement and suspence, which, without the suggestions of any sceptic, gives her a diffidence of herself, and of the ground on which she treads.

For the first time I could remember, Plex seemed to shed his shield of apologetic diffidence.

I could remember, Plex seemed to shed his shield of apologetic diffidence.

It was the rule that the man who was the readiest in the use of fist and slungshot at home had the greatest diffidence about forming a close acquaintance with cold lead in the neighborhood of the front.

As the twins stiffen and press against the upholstery in stunning diffidence she thinks, Oh shit, I forgot.

The tone was so authoritative, so free from the diffidence which had formerly kept Adela from asserting strongly even her cherished faiths.

Although possessed of qualifications for his office so numerous and valuable, he was tremblingly distrustful of his own abilities and exercised his terrible functions with diffidence and hesitation.

Nor would any of human race merit his favour, but a very few, the philosophical Theists, who entertain, or rather indeed endeavour to entertain, suitable notions of his Divine perfections: As the only persons entitled to his compassion and indulgence would be the philosophical Sceptics, a sect almost equally rare, who, from a natural diffidence of their own capacity, suspend, or endeavour to suspend, all judgement with regard to such sublime and such extraordinary subjects.

He turned to the silent thanes and threw off the veil of diffidence and humility which concealed his power.

While the homely but not untalented young ladies reproduced my head, limbs, and hump with the utmost care but, seized with a strange diffidence, either ignored my sex organ or stylized it ad absurdum, the pretty young ladies with the big blue eyes, with the shapely but awkward fingers, gave little heed to the articulations and proportions of my body, but reproduced my imposing genitals with the utmost precision.

What he saw was a trim, sun-browned boy wrestling with a charming little touch of diffidence, trying to decide how to proceed in this matter which was so important to him and so trifling to John Temple, but exhibiting withal the inherent self-possession which bespeaks good breeding.