“Reticent” = reserved; unwilling to speak freely; taciturn. E.g.: “He’s silent in the locker room, reticent in team meetings and uncomfortable among reporters.” Randy Covitz, “Chiefs’ Defense Needs Young Starters to Step Up,” Kansas City Star, 30 Aug. 1997, at D1.
But the word is frequently misunderstood as being synonymous with “reluctant” — e.g.:
o “Malinowski said Pi-Pa-Tag officials have been wary about the earth-capping proposal from its inception, but now they’re even more reticent [read 'reluctant'] to approve such a plan.” David Pedreira, “Asbestos Concerns Stauffer Neighbors,” Tampa Trib., 29 July 1997, at 1.
o “Now that the Wizards’ playoff hopes are gone, Jordan can take time to soak in the farewells he was previously reticent [read 'reluctant'] to embrace.” Joseph White, “Wizards Set for Jordan’s Final Home Game,” Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 14 Apr. 2003, at D4.
The corresponding noun is “reticence,” not *”reticency” (a needless variant). In the noun as well as the adjective, the difference between taciturnity and reluctance is extremely subtle — e.g.: “Many cases go unreported because of a reticence on the part of the victims to publicly accuse close relatives, much like the silence that often cloaks child abuse.” Jon Nordheimer, “A New Abuse of Elderly: Theft by Kin and Friends,” N.Y. Times, 16 Dec. 1991, at A1.
Language-Change Index — “reticent” in the sense “reluctant”: Stage 4.
*Invariably inferior forms.
Quotation of the Day: “Of all the needs a book has, the chief need is that it be readable.” Anthony Trollope, “Trollope on the Literary Life,” in Best Advice on How to Write 6, 33 (Gorham Munson ed., 1952).