shrinking violet


shrinking violet


  • typically refers to a person who is shy, timid, or reserved in social situations.

Here are the various meanings and connotations associated with this idiom:


The primary meaning of “shrinking violet” is someone who is extremely shy or bashful, especially in social settings. This person may often avoid drawing attention to themselves and prefer to blend into the background.


It can also denote someone who lacks confidence or is easily intimidated, often shrinking away from challenges or confrontations.


In some contexts, it may imply a person who is modest or humble to the point of self-effacement, downplaying their own achievements or talents.


Another interpretation is that someone is reserved and prefers to keep to themselves, avoiding excessive interaction with others.


While not always the case, “shrinking violet” can sometimes be associated with introverted personalities who recharge their energy through solitary activities rather than socializing.

Lack of confidence

It may also suggest a lack of assertiveness or assertive communication skills, leading the person to avoid asserting themselves in various situations.

Example Sentences

  1. Avril is such a shrinking violet at parties; she always sticks to the sidelines and rarely speaks up.
  2. Despite being talented, his shrinking violet nature held him back from pursuing leadership roles.
  3. Even after winning the award, she remained a shrinking violet, deflecting praise and attributing her success to luck.
  4. He’s not unfriendly, just a bit of a shrinking violet; he prefers to observe rather than participate in group discussions.
  5. Being a shrinking violet doesn’t mean she’s anti-social; she just enjoys her own company more than large gatherings.
  6. His shrinking violet tendencies prevent him from advocating for his ideas in team meetings, even when he knows they’re good.

Origin and History

The phrase is believed to have first appeared in prints in Britain in 1820 in the poetry magazine ‘The Indicator,’ where Leigh Hunt is credited with its earliest known usage. Later, the term appeared in a poem by James Gates Percival titled ‘The Perpetual Youth of Nature,’ published in the United States Literary Gazette on November 1, 1825. The phrase draws on the modest and unassuming nature of the violet flower, which grows close to the ground and often hides its small flowers among its leaves. This association with modesty, shyness, or self-effacement led to the adoption of the phrase to describe people who exhibit these qualities.

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