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Modesty is a word which can mean more than one thing. I don’t think we all have the same definition in our minds. When I read the definition of modesty in several dictionaries, I was somewhat surprised that I had not fully comprehended the correct definition, and that perhaps I had added incorrect meanings to the word. I’m still working on that one, and will let you know.
(Click on the word “Modesty” above, as well as the links listed here for other articles in this Series on Modesty:
“Why Do You Dress That Way?” and “Does What I Wear Matter To God?”
Though you might find this dictionary archaic, I wanted to use the 1828 definition in order to try to regain some sense of what the word originally meant. It’s good for me to have to read this definition many times, and look up the meanings of some of the words. I think it causes me to think about the subject more seriously, and not take anything for granted.
Noah Websters 1828 Dictionary
MOD’ESTY, n. [L. modestia.] That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one’s own worth and importance. This temper when natural, springs in some measure from timidity, and in young and inexperienced persons, is allied to bashfulness and diffidence. In persons who have seen the world, and lost their natural timidity, modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.
2. Modesty, as an act or series of acts, consists in humble, unobtrusive deportment, as opposed to extreme boldness, forwardness, arrogance, presumption, audacity or impudence. Thus we say, the petitioner urged his claims with modesty; the speaker addressed the audience with modesty.3. Moderation; decency.
4. In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.