Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Tending to avoid people and social situations; reserved.
  • adj. Affectedly and usually flirtatiously shy or modest. See Synonyms at shy1.
  • adj. Annoyingly unwilling to make a commitment.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Bashful, shy, retiring.
  • adj. Quiet, reserved, modest.
  • adj. Reluctant to give details about something sensitive; notably prudish.
  • adj. Pretending shyness or modesty, especially in an insincere or flirtatious way.
  • adj. Soft, gentle, hesitating
  • v. (obsolete) To caress, pet; to coax, entice
  • v. (obsolete) To calm or soothe
  • n. A trap from which waterfowl may be hunted.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Quiet; still.
  • adj. Shrinking from approach or familiarity; reserved; bashful; shy; modest; -- usually applied to women, sometimes with an implication of coquetry.
  • adj. Soft; gentle; hesitating.
  • intransitive v. To behave with reserve or coyness; to shrink from approach or familiarity.
  • intransitive v. To make difficulty; to be unwilling.
  • transitive v. To allure; to entice; to decoy.
  • transitive v. To caress with the hand; to stroke.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Quiet; still.
  • Manifesting modesty; shrinking from familiarity; bashful; shy; retiring.
  • Disposed to repel advances; disdainful.
  • Synonyms Shrinking, distant, bashful, backward, diffident, demure.
  • To quiet; soothe.
  • To caress with the hand; stroke caressingly.
  • To coax; allure; entice; decoy. See decoy, v.
  • To be coy; behave with coyness or bashfulness; shrink from familiarity: with an indefinite it.
  • To make difficulty; be slow or reluctant.
  • n. A stroke or noise made to coy or quiet an animal, as a horse; a soothing sound or utterance.
  • n. A decoy. See decoy, n.
  • n. A cage or pen for lobsters.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. showing marked and often playful or irritating evasiveness or reluctance to make a definite or committing statement
  • adj. modestly or warily rejecting approaches or overtures
  • adj. affectedly modest or shy especially in a playful or provocative way

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French quei, coi, quiet, still, from Vulgar Latin *quētus, from Latin quiētus, past participle of quiēscere, to rest; see kweiə- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French coi, earlier quei ("quiet, still"), from Latin quietus ("resting, at rest") (Wiktionary)
Compare decoy. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • A Scottish name for the ball used in the game of shinty.

    May 10, 2011

  • The term has been simultaneously derogated and immortalized by Andrew Marvell's "To his Coy Mistress"

    April 10, 2009

  • I use this to abbreviate the word company.

    October 7, 2007