This will be a bit hard to explain, but I'll give it a shot.

I am looking for a good word to describe: A person hiding his intense positive enthusiasm and excitement for something, as to not seem overly excited and hence being perceived as emotional or irrational. This person is afraid that his excitement might generate some sort of mistrust with the cautious person who will decide if he will be able to experience what he is exited about or not.

Example sentence:

"He is a true pragmatist; one who takes on new challenges with great, yet [word here] enthusiasm."

I have been thinking about using concealed, reserved, humbled, restrained and modest, but I feel like those words come with a sort of negative undertone, as if the person is harbouring some kind of hidden agenda, which is not what I want to say. Any suggestions?

  • 1
    So, you’d like to compress a fifty-nine–word paragraph into just one single word, eh? If you manage that one, let me know, because I know some crypto guys who’d love to talk to you. – tchrist Aug 10 '12 at 23:56
  • I just added that paragraph in an attempt to illustrate and add some context to the question. The [word here] in the example sentence is what I was looking to fill. – Leif Aug 11 '12 at 0:22

Words like seemly, proper, careful, knowing, canny, shrewd, astute, and decorous may fit. With slight rewording, phrases like with appropriate reserve, in reasoned measure, carefully proportioned, and not unseemly can be made to work. Of the above, canny ("careful, prudent, cautious" or "knowing, shrewd, astute") may serve best, because of its connotations of conscious, knowing insight and an eye to the main chance.

  • Perfect! Thank you so much. I will most likely use astute or shrewd. So many good and fitting suggestions in there, it's hard to choose! :) – Leif Aug 11 '12 at 0:28
  • Wish I could up-vote this a few more times. – Leif Aug 11 '12 at 0:34

How about "guarded"? It means "noncommittal", "restrained".

  • Thanks! "Guarded" is a good word I didn't think about, but I feel like "noncommittal" is a bit too negative, as this person is definitely very much committed. – Leif Aug 11 '12 at 0:16

The syntax you’ve committed yourself to makes it tricky. How about “with great, yet closeted, enthusiasm”. Or with “covert” for “closeted” (though I rather like “closeted” here).

With different syntax you could go for: “... yet does not display any (outward) sign of enthusiasm” or “suppresses any display/sign of enthusiasm”.

Slightly less transparently, you might play on the expression “to play one’s card close to one’s chest” (meaning, not to let on about what you are doing or have prepared): “he plays his enthusiasm close to his chest”.

  • Thanks, Daniel! Some good suggestions there. I agree that the syntax makes it harder. I might used "closeted", or take your suggestion and rephrase it. – Leif Aug 11 '12 at 0:12

stoic: One who is seemingly indifferent to or unaffected by joy, grief, pleasure, or pain.

is the word that comes to mind for me.


Perhaps the phrase tempered the expression of his enthusiasm might work.

  • Yes, or suppressed his enthusiasm. You will often read that someone "suppressed a smile". – MetaEd Aug 11 '12 at 0:38
  • @ΜετάEd - I picke tempered becasue OP said he wanted to avoid any negative connotation. – bib Aug 11 '12 at 0:41

As I was reading your question I was thinking of cautious enthusiasm. Re-reading the question I see you used the adjective "cautious" to describe the person from whom the subject is trying to conceal the fullness of his enthusiasm, but I still think it works. I think there have been some good suggestions, although to me, "shrewd" carries a slightly negative connotation (calculating, cunning), and "closeted" is, to me, almost exclusively associated with the Closet into which homophobia sends LGBTQ folks.


How about he curbed his enthusiasm?


"Reasoned" strikes me as best for the sample sentence given, though I also like a previous commenter's suggestion of "tempered". (Or "understated", "controlled", "measured"... the tag on this was 'five-word-suggestion', right? :-) )

"Great, yet reasoned enthusiasm" emphasizes that his enthusiasm comes from a thoughtful source - and perhaps alludes to his concern that it not be seen as irrational.


He is a true pragmatist; one who takes on new challenges with great yet cool enthusiasm.

No comma after “great”.

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