What is an adjective that expresses someone's choice to speak up (or to stay silent)?

Nothing required her to go into the details of the assault. But she wasn't XXX. She stepped forward and gave a full account.

Shy, bashful or reticent isn't what I'm looking for. I want to convey that this is not a decision driven by emotion or by an inherent character trait, but rather a clear-cut rational choice.

  • 1
    Have you looked up synonyms of silent in an online thesaurus? Just plain 'silent ' would work. Something that would work naturally would be 'holding back', but your restrictions on emotion/character might be too much. – Mitch Nov 22 '11 at 14:27
  • 2
    It is hard to express that something is not something by employing negation of something else: you want to convey that it is clear-cut rational choice using negation and at the same time differentiate it from emotional reactions and reactions driven by character traits. Good luck. P.S. Maybe "She wasn't hesitant."? – Unreason Nov 22 '11 at 14:32
  • Silent is someone's state; I'm looking for something that describes the mental state of deciding to be silent. Hesitant is the best so far, but I think it's only a shade stronger than reticent – The English Chicken Nov 22 '11 at 14:54
  • 1
    The word you want is hallgat. Problem is, that's in Hungarian. :) – Marthaª Nov 22 '11 at 16:45

"Mum" or "tight-lipped" would be my choice for that meaning. But in the context you present, "reticent" works better.

  • 1
    Maybe there is no exact word, but these are the closest so far... – The English Chicken Nov 22 '11 at 17:53

Whilst I agree that shy and bashful are primarily indicative of a person's inherent tendency not to speak out, I think reticent applies far more to specific behaviour in context.

OP is simply mistaken in thinking reticent doesn't convey the "rational choice" meaning he seeks.


Perhaps mute could carry the connotation you are looking for.

  • How about "intentionally mute" then? – Raku Nov 22 '11 at 13:42
  • There was formerly a misdeanour called 'being mute of malice' (and so impeding justice), which would, if memory serves, have applied in your example. (Or the negative of it, or whatever). – TimLymington Nov 22 '11 at 16:00

Reticence connotes a person’s character, someone who is predisposed to be quite private, somewhat like taciturn. If you are trying to convey that she was not held back by such a predisposition, then “not reticent” would be fine.

But since you are trying to convey that she was not held back for a particular reason, instead I suggest “wasn’t restrained” (or “was unrestrained”). Another possibility is “wasn't guarded”. Or a different approach would make clear that her decision was based on reason: “she had no misgivings”.

  • I disagree with your claim that reticence is primarily indicative of an inherent ongoing non-specific character trait. I accept that taciturn often has that significance, but to me reticent is no different to unrestrained or guarded in that respect. These words normally apply to a person's response to a particular situation. – FumbleFingers Nov 22 '11 at 17:50
  • Merriam-Webster seems to bear me out in this. RETICENT 1 : tending not to talk or give out information. 2 : quiet in tone or appearance. These are connotations of character. When the word is used of a particular instance of reticence, it carries these connotations along with it. – MetaEd Nov 22 '11 at 18:09
  • It's a fine nuance which isn't likely to be reflected in a short dictionary entry. Also I may be mistaken in respect of US usage. But comparing he is reticent / taciturn it seems to me the vast majority of the former are in respect of some particular situation, or information being withheld. Most of the latter seem to be describing someone's general character. – FumbleFingers Nov 22 '11 at 18:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.