violet

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Related to Violets: African violets

shrinking violet

A negative term for a very shy person. After years of being seen as nothing more than a shrinking violet, Christine decided to overcome her fears and start talking to strangers.
See also: shrink, violet

shrinking violet

Fig. someone who is very shy and not assertive. I am not exactly a shrinking violet, but I don't have the guts to say what you said to her.
See also: shrink, violet

shrinking violet, a

An extremely shy person, as in She was a shrinking violet until she went away to college. This metaphoric idiom refers to the flower, but the precise allusion is unclear, since violets thrive under a variety of conditions and often are considered a garden weed. [Early 1900s]
See also: shrink

a shrinking violet

If you describe someone as a shrinking violet, you mean that they are very shy. Give him a tough assignment and he turns into a shrinking violet. None of the women he paints could be described as shrinking violets. Note: You can say that someone is no shrinking violet to mean that they are very self-confident. Amber is no shrinking violet. She is a brash colourful character. Note: In the past, violets were considered to be a symbol of modesty, because of their small size and the fact that the flowers remain hidden among the leaves until they open.
See also: shrink, violet

shrinking violet

an exaggeratedly shy person. informal
2004 Sunday Times Clough was no shrinking violet. He had absolute belief in himself and his methods, and wasn't afraid to say so to anybody.
See also: shrink, violet

a ˌshrinking ˈviolet

(humorous) a very shy person who is easily frightened: I can’t imagine why a dynamic young woman like her is marrying a shrinking violet like him.
See also: shrink, violet

shrinking violet, a

A very shy individual. Why the violet, a small but common shade-loving perennial, should be chosen to designate shyness is unclear. On the contrary, violets can boldly take over patches of ground, and gardeners may even find them difficult to eradicate from unwanted spaces. Nevertheless, the phrase has been used since the early 1900s. The Listener stated (July 22, 1976), “Frayn has not forgotten the underdog. . . . The shrinking violet . . . is the most dangerous plant in the glades of privilege.”
See also: shrink

shrinking violet

A shy person. The violet flower gives the impression of shyness, growing as it does close to the protective ground and often beneath other plants, shrubs and trees. Compared to other larger foliage, violets do seem to look as though they are shrinking, growing smaller. As applied to shy people, the phrase first appeared in both America and Great Britain in the 1820s.
See also: shrink, violet
References in classic literature ?
Thus went Violet through the clear air, and the earth looked smiling up to her, as, with the bright wreath folded in her arms, she flew among the soft, white clouds.
With a beating heart Violet folded her fading wreath more closely to her breast, and with weary wings flew onward to the dreary palace.
His stern face could not stay little Violet, and on through the long hall she went, heedless of the snow that gathered on her feet, and the bleak wind that blew around her; while the King with wondering eyes looked on the golden light that played upon the dark walls as she passed.
And with tears falling thick and fast upon their tender leaves, Violet laid the wreath at his feet, while the golden light grew ever brighter as it fell upon the little form so humbly kneeling there.
Then Violet hung the wreath above the throne, and with weary foot went forth again, out into the cold, dark gardens, and still the golden shadows followed her, and wherever they fell, flowers bloomed and green leaves rustled.
Then came the Frost-Spirits, and beneath their cold wings the flowers died, while the Spirits bore Violet to a low, dark cell, saying as they left her, that their King was angry that she had dared to stay when he had bid her go.
"Peony, Peony!" cried Violet to her brother, who had gone to another part of the garden, "bring me some of that fresh snow, Peony, from the very farthest corner, where we have not been trampling.
"Here it is, Violet!" answered Peony, in his bluff tone,--but a very sweet tone, too,--as he came floundering through the half-trodden drifts.
"Yes," said Violet, thoughtfully and quietly; "our snow-sister does look very lovely.
Violet and Peony would not be aware of their immortal playmates,--only they would see that the image grew very beautiful while they worked at it, and would think that they themselves had done it all.
Nevertheless, the idea seized upon her imagination; and, ever and anon, she took a glimpse out of the window, half dreaming that she might see the golden-haired children of paradise sporting with her own golden-haired Violet and bright-cheeked Peony.
Now, for a few moments, there was a busy and earnest, but indistinct hum of the two children's voices, as Violet and Peony wrought together with one happy consent.
Violet, meanwhile, stood patiently before him with the coffee.
The section of it which still worked in the present was just large enough to enable him to understand that he felt kindly, and even almost grateful, to Violet. Unfortunately it was too small to make him see how wrong it was to kiss her in a vague, fatherly way across the coffee tray just as James Datchett walked into the room.
Violet, absolutely unmoved, supplied James with coffee, and bustled out of the room.