English edit

Etymology edit

From Late Middle English modicum, borrowed from Latin modicum (a little, a small amount), a noun use of the neuter form of modicus (moderate; restrained, temperate; reasonable) + -cum (suffix forming neuter nouns). Modicus is derived from modus (a measure; a bound, limit) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *med- (to measure)) + -icus (suffix meaning ‘of or pertaining to’ forming adjectives).[1]

The plural form modica is derived from Latin modica.

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit

modicum (plural modicums or (rare) modica)

  1. A modest, small, or trifling amount.
    Synonyms: iota, jot, tittle; see also Thesaurus:modicum
    Antonyms: see Thesaurus:lot
    Unable to garner even a modicum of support for his plan, he conceded to follow the others.
    • c. 1602 (date written), William Shakespeare, The Famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid. [] (First Quarto), London: [] G[eorge] Eld for R[ichard] Bonian and H[enry] Walley, [], published 1609, →OCLC, [Act II, scene i]:
      Lo, lo, lo, lo, what modicums of wit he vtters, his euaſions haue ears thus long. I haue bobed his braine more then he has beate my bones.
    • 1607, T[homas] W[alkington], “That a Diet is to bee Obserued of Eueryone”, in The Optick Glasse of Hvmors. Or The Touchstone of a Golden Temperature, or the Philosophers Stone to Make a Golden Temper. [], London: [] Iohn Windet for Martin Clerke, [], →OCLC, page 25:
      He [Clement of Alexandria] ſhewes alſo that it is better (if a man do drinke) to take wine at ſupper than at dinner, yet a little modicum [...].
    • 1708 August 8–10, “Q. I desire your Opinions, whether you think it agreeable to the Laws of Humanity to kill a Man, that Assaults us on the High Way.”, in [Aaron Hill and Marshall Smith], editors, The British Apollo, or, Curious Amusements for the Ingenious. [], volume I, number 49, London: [] J. Mayo, [], →OCLC, column 1:
      For as a Poor Man has as Juſt a Title to the ſmall Modicum he enjoys, as has the Rich Man to his large Poſſeſſions; ſo the Travailer has as good a Title to his Money, as has the Robber to his Life.
    • 1836, [Thomas Carlyle], “Memoir of Burns”, in “The Ettrick Shepherd” [pseudonym; James Hogg] and William Motherwell, editors, The Works of Robert Burns, volume V, Glasgow, Edinburgh: Archibald Fullarton, and Co. [], →OCLC, chapter XII (General Character of Burns), page 227:
      By the great, also, he [Robert Burns] was treated in the customary fashion, entertained at their tables, and dismissed. Certain modica of pudding and praise are from time to time gladly exchanged for the fascination of his presence, which exchange once effected, the bargain is finished, and each party goes off his several way.
    • 1851 August, “Infirmities of Media”, in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, volume III, number 15, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, [], →OCLC, page 327, column 1:
      And time would fail us to enumerate the hundreds of lesser spirits who have employed their small modica of light, which they mistook for genius, as lamps allowing them to see their way more clearly down to the chambers of death.
    • 1876 May – 1877 July, Anthony Trollope, “Poor Caneback”, in The American Senator [], volume I, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1877, →OCLC, page 242:
      There he lay quiet and composed, sipping small modicums of brandy and water, and taking his outlook into such transtygian world as he had fashioned for himself in his dull imagination.
    • 1947 January 29, Theodore R. Iserman (witness), “Statement of Theodore R. Iserman, Attorney at Law, New York, N.Y.”, in Labor Relations Program: Hearings before the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, United States Senate, Eightieth Congress, First Session, on S. 55 and S.J. Res. 22 [], part 1, Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, →OCLC, page 131:
      We propose, and it is in Senator [Joseph Hurst] Ball's bill, I believe, that this [National Labor Relations] Board has got to stop deciding its cases on scintillas of evidence and imponderables and modicums and inferences, and stick to the facts.
    • 1988, Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, spoken by Baron Munchausen (John Neville):
      I have learned from experience that a modicum of snuff can be most efficacious.
    • 2003, Fergus Fleming, “‘It is the Hour of My Death’”, in The Sword and the Cross: Two Men and an Empire of Sand, New York, N.Y.: Grove Press, →ISBN, page 269:
      He drinks iced lemonade through a long straw, without moving, without even shifting his head, and thereby gains a modicum of inner coolness.
    • 2011, Thomas Thwaites, “Deconstruction”, in Sara Bader, editor, The Toaster Project: Or A Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electrical Appliance from Scratch, New York, N.Y.: Princeton Architectural Press, →ISBN, page 34:
      Perhaps the majority of human endeavour can be reduced to the pursuit of additional modicums of comfort—like being slightly less tired, being slightly less bored, or just an evenly crispy piece of toast—small trifles, to which we quickly become accustomed.
    • 2023 February 8, Christian Wolmar, “Pressing issues to help Eurostar fulfil its ambitions”, in RAIL, number 976, page 38:
      Now, anyone with a modicum of knowledge of the rail network and of union feeling on this matter will have realised that this was another way of saying 'no deal'.

Translations edit

References edit

  1. ^ modicum, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2002; modicum, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Latin edit

Etymology edit

From modicus (moderate, middling).

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit

modicum n (genitive modicī); second declension

  1. a little, a small amount

Declension edit

Second-declension noun (neuter).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative modicum modica
Genitive modicī modicōrum
Dative modicō modicīs
Accusative modicum modica
Ablative modicō modicīs
Vocative modicum modica

Descendants edit

  • English: modicum

Adjective edit


  1. inflection of modicus:
    1. nominative/accusative/vocative neuter singular
    2. accusative masculine singular

References edit