Reticent vs Reluctant: We Explain these Synonyms

Reticent vs reluctant trip up some writers because the two words are now used as synonyms when historically they were not.

The words reluctant and reticent have similar meanings in the English language, but they come from different roots. People sometimes confuse these two words. Historically they were not synonyms, but this has changed over time.

Taking a closer look at the Latin roots for reticent vs reluctant will help you learn to use these words correctly. This, in turn, will make your writing stronger and more accurate.

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Decoding Reticent Vs Reluctant

Reticent vs reluctant

In order to use words like reticent and reluctant correctly, you need to understand their roots and basic meanings. here is a closer look at these two.

The Meaning and Etymology of Reluctant

Reticent vs reluctant
Reluctatnt came from the spanish word reluchante and the Italian word riluttante

Reluctant means unwilling or disinclined to do something. This word comes from the Latin word reluctantem, which means “to struggle against or resist.”

This word has been around for a long time. The Latin root came from the 1660s. It also became the basis for the Spanish word reluchante and the Italian word riluttante.

Other Words from Reluctant

Reluctant is the base for other English words. The word reluctance is a feeling of hesitancy or struggles against something. Reluctantly is the adverb form of the word. 

Example Sentences for Reluctant

Reluctant has a negative connotation in modern English. Here are some sentences that use it correctly:

  • He was reluctant to record the podcast on the controversial topic.
  • The witness at the trial took the stand reluctantly.
  • Though he was reluctant to visit New York City, he ended up having a great vacation.

The Meaning And Etymology Of Reticent

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, reticent means ‘inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech.” It can also mean “restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance.”

Unlike reluctant, reticent is a relatively new world. it first came into the English language about 170 years ago and comes from the Latin word “reticere,” which means “to keep silent.

Other Words from Reticent

The word reticent does not have a lot of other words that are derived from it. Reticently is the adverb form of the verb, while reticence is the noun form of the word.

Example Sentences for Reticent

These sentences show the correct English usage of reticent:

  • He was reticent to gossip about his friend behind her back.
  • She was surprised when her normally reticent mother spoke up during the heated discussion.
  • The student felt reticent about sharing an answer when the teacher called on her.

Reticent as a Synonym for Reluctant

Even though reticent officially means something different from reluctant, in modern English, the two words have evolved to become synonyms of each other. In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary now lists “reluctant” as a third definition of reticent.

Because English is a constantly evolving language, these two words can now be interchangeable, even though the traditional definition of reticent is “silent” not “unwilling.” Thus, it is not grammatically incorrect to say that someone who is hesitant is “reticent,” as in these examples:

  • The tasty treat was enough to entice the reticent dog into the carrier.
  • Researchers found that men were reticent to visit the doctor when experiencing health concerns.
  • Many people remain reticent about the new treatment because of fear and mistrust in pharmaceutical companies.

In the final example, the meaning could be both hesitant, in that they do not want to take the new treatment, and silent, in that they are not speaking out about their opinion, which makes reticent a good word choice.

A Final Word On Reticent Vs Reluctant

The words reticent and reluctant are tricky to keep straight because historically they have different meanings, but they have evolved to have similar meanings in modern English.

If you are talking about spoken words or the action of speaking, the word reticent is almost always the right choice. If the person is hesitant about something that is not a spoken word, you can still use reticent, but reluctant may be a better word choice.

Overall, because reluctant is now considered a definition of reticent, the two words can have the same use. If you want to be strict about the use, safe reticent for the spoken word, but you would not be wrong to use them interchangeably. If you liked this post, you might also be interested in our on vs. upon explainer.

FAQs on Reticent vs Reluctant

Are reticent and reluctant synonyms?

Historically, reticent and reluctant were not synonyms, but as the English language continues to evolve, so does the meaning of words. Today, these two words are considered synonyms in certain usages.

What is a mother word for reluctant?

Some synonyms for reluctant include:
1. Reticent
2. Hesitant 
3. Disinclined
4. Loath
5. Uninterested