What is a word for when someone speaks or answers you using single words like "yes", "okay", or "probably", but your questions are sensible enough to base a conversation on?

  • "Answering in monosyllables" – Kris Jan 17 '15 at 6:35
  • "Have you been having trouble with recurring nightmares?" "Yeah." "I gather this bad dream you've just had was one of them." "Yeah." "Have you always had them, or is this something recently?" "Recent." "Has it something to do with how you came to be in your present physical condition?" "Yeah." "Aidan?" "What?" "Would you please stop answering in monosyllables and talk to me? I'd like to help, but you're not making it easy." (Jehan St. Marc, To Walk in Newness of Life, iUniverse, 2001, p.79) – Kris Jan 17 '15 at 6:40
  • books.google.co.in/… GoogleBooks – Kris Jan 17 '15 at 6:43
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    Teenager, clearly. – andy256 Jan 17 '15 at 9:20
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    Duplicate from several months back, but my first choice would be "taciturn", simply because it feels so good in your mouth. – Hot Licks Jan 17 '15 at 13:53

The right word choice depends as much on connotation as definition. You're inviting someone to converse, and your invitation is being declined. I get the idea that you feel you're being rebuffed, and you want a word to describe the mostly monosyllabic responses you get in that light.

"Curt" comes to mind. It strongly connotes discourtesy. "Brusque" is a similar word, with similar connotations. Neither of those words is especially popular, but not to the point that I would shy away from using them in everyday speaking or writing.

"Reticent" has no connotation of discourtesy. It gives the connotation that the speaker's shortness has more to do with the speaker's mood or personality, and nothing to do with you or how you're being treated.

Terms like "tight-lipped" and "closed-mouthed" are synonymous with "reticent," but they are often used in the context of secrets. They imply that information is being withheld. Although neither of them implies discourtesy, they are often used to convey a certain a certain mild disappointment on the part of the person who desires the information.


See the list of synonyms at laconic here:


Using or marked by the use of few words; terse or concise.


"Monosyllabic" is often used for a person who deals in one word answers: technically it refers to words of a single syllable, but if is often extended to include single word, or curt, answers.


"tight-lipped" "closed-mouthed" "reticent"

  • How do each of these answer the question? – andy256 Jan 17 '15 at 9:34

"not very talkative" might fit.


Taciturn. adjective

(of a person) reserved or uncommunicative in speech; saying little.

synonyms: untalkative, uncommunicative, reticent, unforthcoming, quiet, secretive, tight-lipped, buttoned-up, close-mouthed

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    Unless you cite your reference, your answer will be deleted for plagiarism. – tchrist Jan 18 '15 at 14:14

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