Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for August 5, 2020 is:

demure • dih-MYOOR  • adjective

1 : reserved, modest

2 : affectedly modest, reserved, or serious : coy


“Her demure demeanor belies the inner Goth girl who once hung out with Mötley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne. She maintains art forms her first priority for being alive. The social distancing produced by the coronavirus is nothing new to her.” — Kathaleen Roberts, The Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal, 21 June 2020

“While Amelia Bloomer’s name became a punch line, Susan B. Anthony would be remembered for a much different fashion statement: a demure red shawl, one example of which survives in the Smithsonian.” — ­ Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, The Atlantic, 12 June 2019

Did you know?

In the nearly four centuries that demure has been in use, its meaning has only shifted slightly. While it began solely as a descriptive term for people of quiet modesty and sedate reserve—those who don’t draw attention to themselves, whether because of a shy nature or determined self-control—it came to be applied also to those whose modesty and reservation is more affectation than sincere expression. While demure sounds French and entered the language at a time when the native tongue of England was borrowing many French words from the Normans who gained control of the country after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the etymological evidence requires that we exercise restraint: the word’s origin remains obscure.

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