Are You Reticent or Reluctant to Read This?

Here are two words that get mixed up at times—reticent and reluctant. If you’re reticent, it means you are reserved/restrained in appearance or presentation or unwilling to speak freely.

Although reticence often seems to have the same sense as reluctance, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two words.

Reluctance, by contrast, refers to an aversion, hesitation, or unwillingness to do or say something. It usually implies a strong negative connotation. Reticent imparts less of a negative feeling.

You could be reluctant to be harsh with another person, whereas you might be reticent about speaking up because you are shy. Think of it this way: people aren’t generally reluctant by nature.

Here are some examples that might help show the difference between these two words:

  • Her reluctance to climb El Capitan stemmed from a fear of heights.
  • John’s reticence about explaining where he’d taken the car irritated his mom.
  • Bill’s reserve implied he was haughty and cold.
  • Sally showed restraint in biting her tongue when Mary called her a dumb blonde.

I’m reluctant to go further with this discussion due to fear of confusing you.  My reticence is due to my wanting you to think I’m really smart. I can see you’re restraining to reply to that remark.

One Response to “Are You Reticent or Reluctant to Read This?”

  1. Yvonne Hertzberger October 23, 2015 at 7:28 am #

    Nice distinction. The way I remember them – reluctant means I don’t really want to, reticent means I’m hesitating.

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