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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ Her former classmates say she was shy and diffident in school.
▪ Joe was humble and diffident about his own success.
▪ Shaun became noticeably diffident when the conversation turned to the subject of his promotion.
▪ From being a painfully shy, diffident recluse, he suddenly metamorphosed into a garrulous and sometimes painfully overbearing extrovert.
▪ He seemed diffident, even shy.
▪ The Neanderthals seemed unexpectedly gentle and diffident people.
▪ The voice at the other end was light, gentle, diffident.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Diffident \Dif"fi*dent\, a. [L. diffidens, -entis, p. pr. of diffidere; dif- = dis + fidere to trust; akin to fides faith. See Faith, and cf. Defy.]

  1. Wanting confidence in others; distrustful. [Archaic]

    You were always extremely diffident of their success.

  2. Wanting confidence in one's self; distrustful of one's own powers; not self-reliant; timid; modest; bashful; characterized by modest reserve.

    The diffident maidens, Folding their hands in prayer.

    Syn: Distrustful; suspicious; hesitating; doubtful; modest; bashful; lowly; reserved.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

mid-15c., from Latin diffidentem (nominative diffidens), present participle of diffidere (see diffidence). Related: Diffidently.


a. 1 (context archaic English): Lacking confidence in others; distrustful. 2 Lacking confidence in one's self; distrustful of one's own powers; not self-reliant; timid; modest; bashful; characterized by modest reserve.

  1. adj. showing modest reserve; "she was diffident when offering a comment on the professor's lecture"

  2. lacking self-confidence; "stood in the doorway diffident and abashed"; "problems that call for bold not timid responses"; "a very unsure young man" [syn: shy, timid, unsure]

Usage examples of "diffident".

On the soil of his own county he was no longer the diffident, affable soul he had been on the Continent.

Shy, iridescent, coltish, pelvically anfractuous, amply busted, given to diffident movements of hand brushing flaxen hair from front of dear creamy forehead, movements which drove Bruce Green up a private tree.

She and Jack Bedell had been two retiring, diffident, self-conscious people who found talk with other people absurdly difficult.

Alice had sentenced her to a sound birching on the bare, to smarten up this diffident pupil.

Joe had that authentic air of the solitary bricoleur, the potterer of genius, like the Facteur Cheval or that strange and diffident other Joe, Mr.

In some schools pupils who are diffident about reciting, or who do not care to take the trouble, shake their heads in refusal almost before they hear the question in full.

The diffident kessentai shook his sauroid head from side to side as the view-screens filled the room with the light of the descending primary.

That gentleness seemed oddly diffident, as if the guards were not sure whether the Engineers were friends or foes, or the bots were wards or prisoners.

She was the type of woman whom small, diffident men seem to marry instinctively, as unable to help themselves as cockleshell boats sucked into a maelstrom.

Grace gave her hand almost unconsciously to John, and he handed her into the phaeton, as Denbigh stood willing to execute his part of the arrangement, but too diffident to speak.

Francis Denbigh, the eldest son of the general, was naturally diffident, and, in addition, it was his misfortune to be the reverse of captivating in external appearance.

Their approach was so diffident that Jim felt confirmed in his idea that they were completely lost in the play and were approaching not Lord and Lady Eckert, but Joseph and Mary.

The illiterate may reflect on the disposition of the learned, who, amidst all the advantages of study and reflection, are commonly still diffident in their determinations: and if any of the learned be inclined, from their natural temper, to haughtiness and obstinacy, a small tincture of Pyrrhonism might abate their pride, by showing them, that the few advantages, which they may have attained over their fellows, are but inconsiderable, if compared with the universal perplexity and confusion, which is inherent in human nature.

And Beatrice sat in front beside him, listening to his advice, given in a diffident voice but sound none the less, so that, when he suggested that it might help if he were to be present when she interviewed any applicant for the post of assistant at the surgery, she agreed without a second thought.

At other times he would have been diffident in addressing a crowded audience, but he felt that he must justify the confidence imposed on him, and knowing the preparations that were being made by the prince, and his intense anxiety that Alkmaar should resist to the end, he began without hesitation, and speedily forgot himself in the importance of the subject.