1560s, "having moderate self-regard, restrained by a sense of propriety or humility," from Middle French modeste (14c.), from Latin modestus "moderate, keeping due measure, sober, gentle, temperate," from modus "measure, manner" (from PIE root *med- "take appropriate measures"). Of women, "not improper or lewd, pure in thought and conduct," 1590s; of female attire, "not gaudy or showy," 1610s. Of demands, etc., "not excessive or extreme," c. 1600. Related: Modestly.