mode of dress and deportment which intends to avoid encouraging of sexual attraction in others

Modesty is often used as synonym of humility and an antonym of boastfulness; a modest person does not draw attention to their own real or supposed accomplishments and desirable attributes. Terms related to "modesty" in this sense include "shyness", and "simplicity". Related usages occur to describe modes of dress and deportment that are not considered ostentatious or alluring, or some object or attribute that is, in fact, not very desirable; a "modest dwelling" would describe a hut rather than a palace.


  • A just and reasonable modesty does not only recommend eloquence, but sets off every great talent which a man can be possessed of. It heightens all the virtues which it accompanies; like the shades in paintings, it raises and rounds every figure, and makes the colours more beautiful, though not so glaring as they would be without it.
  • In short, if you banish modesty out of the world, she carries away with her half the virtue that is in it.
  • True modesty avoids everything that is criminal; false modesty everything that is unfashionable.
  • The good we do to others is spoilt unless we efface ourselves so completely that those we help have no sense of inferiority.
    • Honoré de Balzac, Letters of Two Brides in The Wisdom of Balzac (New York: 1923), p. 30
  • Evil does not approach us as pride any more, but on the contrary as slumber, lassitude, concealment of the "I." … It may make us so quickly contented, that any definitive fire will die down. The venomous, breathtaking frigid mist seems able … to harden hearts and fill them with envy, obduracy and resentment, with bloody scorn for the divine image and light, with all the causes of the only true original sin, which is not wanting to be like God.
    • Ernst Bloch, Man on His Own (1959), B. Ashton, trans. (1970), p. 62
  • Forgetting that their pride of spirit,
Their exultation in their trial,
Detracts most largely from the merit
Of all their boasted self-denial.
  • Lord Byron, “Granta” (1806), Poetical Works, Volume 1
  • There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies. The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.
  • The mark of the man of the world is absence of pretension. He does not make a speech; he takes a low business-tone, avoids all brag, is nobody, dresses plainly, promises not at all, performs much, speaks in monosyllables, hugs his fact. He calls his employment by its lowest name, and so takes from evil tongues their sharpest weapon.
  • Thy modesty's a candle to thy merit.
  • True intelligence very readily conceives of an intelligence superior to its own; and this is why truly intelligent men are modest.
    • André Gide, “An Unprejudiced Mind,” Pretexts, J. O’Brien, ed. (1964) pp. 311-312
  • Her modest looks the cottage might adorn,
    Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn.
  • On the contrary, modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues.
  • Modesty is to merit, what shade is to figures in a picture; it gives it strength and makes it stand out.
    • Jean de La Bruyère, The Characters or Manners of the Present Age (1688), Chapter II, Section 17.
  • Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
  • He has told you, O man, what is good. And what is Jehovah requiring of you? Only to exercise justice, to cherish loyalty, and to walk in modesty with your God!
  • Longevity and short life, suffering and happiness — all aspects of human life depend on modesty in food and drink.
  • I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.
  • When presumptuousness comes, dishonor will follow, but wisdom is with the modest ones.
  • That one can be a great mind without noticing anything of it is an absurdity of which only hopeless incompetence can persuade itself, in order that it may regard the feeling of its own nothingness as modesty. … Goethe has said it bluntly: ‘Only good-for-nothings are modest.’ But even more incontestable would be the assertion that those who so eagerly demand modesty from others … are assuredly good-for-nothings, i.e. wretches entirely without merit.
  • Can it be
    That modesty may more betray our sense
    Than woman's lightness? Having waste ground enough,
    Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary
    And pitch our evils there?
  • La verecondia delle donzelle è come l’acquavite. È perfetta sine a tanto che si tiene ben chiusa, ma se prende l’aria, vela subito via.
    • Translation: Maidenly modesty is like aquavitæ, which keeps in perfect condition as long as it is tightly stoppered, but, if the air gets to it, evaporates at once.
    • Antonio Simeone Sografi, Olivo e Pasquale, Act I., Sc. VII. — (Pasquale.). Translation reported in Harbottle's Dictionary of quotations French and Italian (1904), p. 349.
  • A modest person seldom fails to gain the goodwill of those he converses with, because nobody envies a man who does not appear to be pleased with himself.
  • Modesty never rages, never murmurs, never pouts; when it is ill-treated, it pines, it beseeches, it languishes.
  • Vain men delight in telling what honours have been done them, what great company they have kept, and the like, by which they plainly confess that these honours were more than their due, and such as their friends would not believe if they had not been told: whereas a man truly proud thinks the greatest honours below his merit, and consequently scorns to boast.
  • He saw her charming, but he saw not half
    The charms her downcast modesty conceal'd.
  • The person who exalts himself ... will be humbled, because a person who considers himself to be good, intelligent, and kind will not even try to become better, smarter, kinder. The humble person will be exalted, because he considers himself bad and will try to become better, kinder, and more reasonable.
    • Leo Tolstoy, Path of Life, M. Cote, trans. (2002), p. 110

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 520-21.
  • Maximum ornamentum amicitiæ tollit, qui ex ea tollit verecundiam.
    • He takes the greatest ornament from friendship, who takes modesty from it.
    • Cicero, De Amicitia, XX.
  • Modesty is that feeling by which honorable shame acquires a valuable and lasting authority.
    • Cicero, Rhetorical Invention, Book II, Section LVI.
  • Modesty antedates clothes and will be resumed when clothes are no more.
    Modesty died when clothes were born.
    Modesty died when false modesty was born.
    • Mark Twain, Memoranda. Paine's Biography of Mark Twain, Volume III, p. 1513.
  • Immodest words admit of no defence;
    For want of decency is want of sense.
  • Like the violet, which alone
    Prospers in some happy shade,
    My Castara lives unknown
    To no looser eye betrayed.
  • Why, to hear Betsy Bobbet talk about wimmin's throwin' their modesty away, you would think if they ever went to the political pole, they would have to take their dignity and modesty and throw 'em against the pole, and go without any all the rest of their lives.
  • Cui pudor et justitiæ soror incorrupta fides nudaque veritas quando ullum inveniet parem?
    • What can be found equal to modesty, uncorrupt faith, the sister of justice, and undisguised truth?
    • Horace, Carmina, I. 24. 6.
  • Adolescentem verecundum esse decet.
    • Modesty becomes a young man.
    • Plautus, Asinaria, V. 1. 8.
  • Wenn jemand bescheiden bleibt, nicht beim Lobe, sondern beim Tadel, dann ist er's.
  • Da locum melioribus.
    • Give place to your betters.
    • Terence, Phormio, III. 2. 37.



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