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See also: Shy



From Middle English shy (shy), from Old English sċēoh (shy), from Proto-West Germanic *skeuh (shy, fearful), from Proto-Germanic *skeuhaz (shy, fearful). Cognate with Saterland Frisian skjou (shy), Dutch schuw (shy), German scheu (shy), Danish sky (shy).



shy (comparative shier or shyer or more shy, superlative shiest or shyest or most shy)

"The shy girl" (Die Schüchterne), painting by Hermann von Kaulbach (1846–1909)
  1. Easily frightened; timid.
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, (please specify |part=I to IV):
      The horses of the army, and those of the royal stables, having been daily led before me, were no longer shy, but would come up to my very feet without starting.
  2. Reserved; disinclined to familiar approach.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:shy
    Antonyms: audacious, bold, cheeky, brazen, gregarious, outgoing, confident, forward, unshy
    He is very shy with strangers.
    • 1712, Humphry Polesworth [pseudonym; John Arbuthnot], “An Account of the Conference between Mrs. Bull and Don Diego Dismallo”, in John Bull in His Senses: Being the Second Part of Law is a Bottomless-Pit. [], Edinburgh: [] James Watson, [], →OCLC, page 25:
      VVhat makes you ſo ſhy of late, my good Friend? There's no Body loves you better than I, nor has taken more Pains in your Affairs: []
    • 2015 October 30, The Graham Norton Show, season 18, episode 6:
      Graham Norton: But the people coming up to you now, like the Americans, well, you know, the Americans, they're not shy, the Americans. / Maggie Smith: No. Well, no but I don't go anywhere where really they can get at me. It's usually in museums and art galleries and things, so that limits things. I keep away from there, and Harrod's I don't go near.
  3. Cautious; wary; suspicious.
    • 16, [Samuel Butler], Hudibras. The , London; republished in A[lfred] R[ayney] Waller, editor, Hudibras: Written in the Time of the Late Wars, Cambridge: University Press, 1905, →OCLC, canto 1:
      We grant, although he had much wit, / H' was very shy of using it; / As being loth to wear it out, / And therefore bore it not about,
    • 1641, Henry Wotton, The Characters of Robert Devereux and George Villiers:
      Princes are, by wisdom of state, somewhat shy of their successors.
    • 1661, Robert Boyle, “A Proemial Essay, wherein, with Some Considerations Touching Experimental Essays in General, is Interwoven such an Introduction to All Those Written by the Author, as is Necessary to be Perus’d for the Better Understanding of Them”, in Certain Physiological Essays and Other Tracts; [], 2nd edition, London: [] Henry Herringman [], published 1669, →OCLC, page 33:
      [] I am very ſhy of building any thing of moment upon foundations that I eſteem ſo unſure, []
  4. (informal) Short, insufficient or less than.
    By our count your shipment came up two shy of the bill of lading amount.
    It is just shy of a mile from here to their house.
    • 2013, Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street, spoken by Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio):
      The year I turned 26, as the head of my own brokerage firm, I made $49 million, which really pissed me off because it was three shy of a million a week.
    • 2018 December 1, Tom Rostance, “Southampton 2 – 2 Manchester United”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      United move seventh - still six points off a Champions League place and a massive 16 shy of the lead held by rivals Manchester City.
  5. Embarrassed.
    (Can we add an example for this sense?)

Usage notes[edit]

  • Often used in combination with a noun to produce an adjective or adjectival phrase.
  • Adjectives are usually applicable to animals (leash-shy "shy of leashes" or head shy "shy of contact around the head" (of horses)) or to children.

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See also[edit]


shy (third-person singular simple present shies, present participle shying, simple past and past participle shied)

  1. (intransitive) To avoid due to caution, embarrassment or timidness.
    Synonym: shy away
    • (Can we date this quote by Hearings, Reports and Prints of the Senate Committee on Government Operations and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?) (page 172)
      Courts might tend to shy from limiting Congress under such a vague standard.
  2. (intransitive) To jump back in fear.
    The horse shied at the unexpected approach of a motor vehicle.
  3. (transitive) To throw sideways with a jerk; to fling.
    to shy a stone
    shy a slipper
  4. (Scotland, transitive, intransitive) To throw a ball with two hands above the head, especially when it has crossed the side lines in a football (soccer) match.
  5. (Scotland) To hit the ball back into play from the sidelines in a shinty match.

Derived terms[edit]



shy (plural shies)

  1. An act of throwing.
    • 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, The History of Pendennis. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1849–1850, →OCLC:
      Foker discharged a prodigious bouquet at her, and even Smirke made a feeble shy with a rose, and blushed dreadfully when it fell into the pit
    • 1846, Punch, volume 10:
      If Lord Brougham gets a stone in his hand, he must, it seems, have a shy at somebody.
    • 2008, James Kelman, Kieron Smith, Boy, Penguin, published 2009, page 55:
      The game had started. A man was chasing the ball, it went out for a shy.
  2. A place for throwing.
    coconut shy
  3. A sudden start aside, as by a horse.
  4. In the Eton College wall game, a point scored by lifting the ball against the wall in the calx.
  5. (Scotland, soccer) A throw-in from the sidelines, using two hands above the head.
  6. (Scotland) In shinty, the act of tossing the ball above the head and hitting it with the shaft of the caman to bring it back into play after it has been hit out of the field.
  7. (archaic) A gibe; a sneer.

Derived terms[edit]