Don't be Coy - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Is someone avoiding your question? Maybe they are acting deceptive or dancing around a request? If that's the case, you could always tell them, "don't be coy."

This post gives you everything you need to know about the meaning and origin of this idiom and its use in conversation.

Don't be Coy Idiom Meaning

When you're using "don't be coy" in conversation, you're telling someone to stop being deceptive or ambiguous in their language or behavior.

"Playing coy" can mean that the person is dancing around an answer to a subject without directly answering your question. They might try to steer the conversation away from your question in the hope that you won't press the question further.

In some cases, the use of "coy" can refer to people being shy or reclusive with their behavior towards you or others. While it was a common phrase used up until the turn of the millennium, most younger generations don't understand or use the word "coy" in conversation anymore.

Don't be Coy Example Usage

James looked at Kiara's sly smile and told her, "don't be coy with me."

Sally avoided the question of her age, so Greg told her, "don't be coy with me, just tell me your age."

Mike tried to take the conversation off course when someone asked him about his net worth. We all told him, "Don't be coy, just tell us how many Bitcoin you own."

Don't be Coy Idiom Origin

There is no official origin for the phrase "don't be coy." It was a common saying in the 70s through to the 90s. However, the phrase is rarely used today due to the archaic nature of the word "coy." Coy originates from the 14th century, with the meaning modest, timid, or quiet.

Coy originates from the French word "coi," derived from the older variant, "quei." Both iterations of the term refer to stillness, calm, or serenity.

Coy is actually from the Old French “coi,” which derives from the much older Latin, "quei," which means to rest or rest up. However, in the 14th century, the word coy evolved to mean shy or bashful.

The meaning of coy from the late 14th century got transformed to mean bashful or shy. The purpose of the word changed again in the 1960s, with people describing it as an unwillingness to commit. So, we assume that the phrase "don't be coy" originates from the 1960s and only had a brief spell of use in modern language up until the turn of the millennium.

While it's still in use today, it's not common, and many people will change the word coy to alternatives like sly or deceptive.

Phrases Similar to Don't Be Coy

  • Be straight with me.
  • Don't play coy.
  • Don't try to hide it.
  • Stop being ambiguous.

Phrases Opposite to Don't Be Coy

  • Please give me the runaround.
  • Stay in the shadows.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Don't be coy.

Ways People May Say Don't Be Coy Incorrectly

You would use the phrase "don't be coy" to people in the younger generation, as they might not understand the meaning of coy, and they might find it confusing. It's better to be more direct with your language.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Don't Be Coy

You can use "don't be coy" when you're trying to tell someone to stop being deceptive. You can also use the phrase to tell someone to stop being shy or take credit for a good deed. Typically, you'll be asking the person to stop dancing around the subject and be direct with you about what they want or an action they did.

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