• coy •
Pronunciation: koi • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Pretending modesty in an attempt to be alluring, affectedly demure. 2. Reluctant to give details, unwilling to divulge information, reticent. 3. Shy, modestly reserved, timid.
Notes: There is little to say about this little word. The noun accompanying it is coyness and the adverb, coyly. It has a diminutive, coyish, meaning "just a little coy". It has nothing to do with coyotes, though they do tend to be shy around humans.
In Play: Originally this word simply meant "quiet and shy", but today someone who is coy pretends to be shy in a playful manner, often as a form of flirting: "Marian Kine was coy with William Arami for several weeks after their first encounter." The second meaning of this word simply refers to a reluctance to provide information. According to the Washington Post: "Amazon was equally coy about its interest in selling pharmaceuticals."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Old French coi, earlier quei "quiet, still, gentle", inherited from Latin quietus "free; calm, resting", ultimately the past participle of quiescere "to rest". Latin inherited this verb from the Proto-Indo-European root kweie- "to rest, be quiet", which wended its way down to English as while, picking up a suffix -l along the way. English borrowed several other words either directly from Latin or via French based on quietus, including quiet, acquiesce, quite, and requiem. (We are happy that Chris Stewart was not coy in recommending today's subtle Good Word.)