Is there a less intense (more causal, less offensive) equivalent single word that means being dishonest in being modest or to show yourself to be modest when, in fact, you are just pretending?

  • 2
    Is there a single word in your native language for this? If so, what is it?
    – mbomb007
    Apr 2, 2018 at 14:55

3 Answers 3


The closest term I can think of is humblebrag, which specifically refers to a statement that appears on the surface to be a sign of humility while actually is a form of bragging. This term is somewhat recent slang and definitely carries a negative connotation.

Humblebrag Example:

Stephen Fry: Oh dear. Don’t know what to do at the airport. Huge crowd, but I’ll miss my plane if I stop and do photos … oh dear don’t want to disappoint


If you're okay with using more than one word, I think the closest phrase for a dishonest form of modesty would be false modesty. If you want to be a little more indirect, you can say someone is being ostensibly self-deprecating.

  • False modesty works I guess. Although, I still believe there might be a single word to mean the same. Maybe in lines of humblebrag.
    – mysan
    Apr 2, 2018 at 8:51
  • 8
    @AnoopMysore: As a native speaker versed in both AmE and BrE, I'm not familiar with a single-word version, false modesty is the common term. (humblebrag isn't quite a fit, it refers to a specific behavior which, while it is false modesty, is just one specific example of false modesty. But it's a very handy word for those cases. :-) ) Apr 2, 2018 at 11:17
  • Can you explain the bragging part in Stephen's quote? Not obvious to me.
    – Elazar
    Apr 2, 2018 at 16:50
  • 1
    @Elazar - He's saying "Oh no! I'm going to be late for my flight, because all of my adoring fans want photos with me because I'm famous. Do I stop and take photos with my loving public, because I'm so famous, or go to my plane and be on-time?" (...I laid it on a little thicker than he insinuated, but I think the point gets across)
    – BruceWayne
    Apr 2, 2018 at 16:54
  • I thought the bragging part was fairly obvious. What I don't see is the humble part
    – Kevin
    Apr 2, 2018 at 18:14

When reading your question, one can't help but think of the word hypocritical:

If you accuse someone of being hypocritical, you mean that they pretend to have qualities, beliefs, or feelings that they do not really have.

Keep in mind that hypocrisy is a very general term that can be used to describe any type of hypocritical behavior. When you're talking about being hypocritical, you just need to specify more precisely in what respect you think somebody is being hypocritical. For example:

John is such a hypocrite when it comes to modesty. He says that he is modest while he is really not.

  • Thanks. That works in a general sense, as you pointed out. But isn't there a specific word to relate to modesty?
    – mysan
    Apr 2, 2018 at 5:18
  • Not that I know of. But let's wait and see what other people have to say about this. Who knows, maybe, there is a special term that specifically covers the meaning that you're after. Apr 2, 2018 at 5:20
  • The trouble with "hypocrite" is that it is less casual and more offensive than something like "false modesty".
    – Lee Mosher
    Apr 2, 2018 at 15:07
  • Well, it all depends on how you use it, I guess. Apr 2, 2018 at 15:19
  • It seems to me that implying that someone is being deceitful or dishonest in their modesty is going to come across as offensive in some manner, regardless how it’s expressed.
    – godel9
    Apr 2, 2018 at 15:39

Depending on what you mean by "modest", coy might work. It's often used to describe someone who is making a big show of being shy and modest, either as a way to flirt or as a way to avoid talking about something sensitive. It can have a slightly negative feel depending on context, but isn't always negative.

From Dictionary.com:

  1. artfully or affectedly shy or reserved; slyly hesitant; coquettish.
  2. shy; modest.
  3. showing reluctance, especially when insincere or affected, to reveal one's plans or opinions, make a commitment, or take a stand:
    The mayor was coy about his future political aspirations.

Note that in the "flirting" sense it's most often used about women, for good or ill.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .