noun cour·te·sy \ˈkər-tə-sē, British also ˈkr-\

: polite behavior that shows respect for other people

: something that you do because it is polite, kind, etc.

: something that you say to be polite especially when you meet someone

plural cour·te·sies

Full Definition of COURTESY

a :  behavior marked by polished manners or respect for others :  courteous behavior
b :  a courteous and respectful act or expression
a :  general allowance despite facts :  indulgence <hills called mountains by courtesy only>
b :  consideration, cooperation, and generosity in providing something (as a gift or privilege); also :  agency, means —used chiefly in the phrases through the courtesy of or by courtesy of or sometimes simply courtesy of

Examples of COURTESY

  1. They treated us with courtesy and kindness.
  2. She did it as a courtesy, not because she had to.
  3. Everyone knows each other here, so we won't bother with the usual courtesies.
  4. They shook hands and exchanged courtesies before beginning their discussion.
  5. Civilized life cannot be sustained without hypocrisy. A certain moral code, a degree of courtesy and decorum, are necessary to keep our instincts under a modicum of control. —Ian Buruma, New York Review of Books, 2 Nov. 2006

Origin of COURTESY

Middle English corteisie, from Anglo-French curteisie, from curteis
First Known Use: 13th century


adjective cour·te·sy \ˈkər-tə-sē, British also ˈkr-\

: done in order to be polite

: provided for free

Full Definition of COURTESY

:  granted, provided, or performed as a courtesy or by way of courtesy (see 1courtesy) <made a courtesy call on the ambassador>

Examples of COURTESY

  1. Important visitors to the conference were provided with courtesy cars.
  2. As the heir to an earldom, Stephen was obliged to pay a courtesy call on the British ambassador … —Ken Follett, The Man from St. Petersburg, 1982

Origin of COURTESY

(see 1courtesy)
First Known Use: 1613
COURTESIES Defined for Kids


noun cour·te·sy \ˈkər-tə-sē\
plural cour·te·sies

Definition of COURTESY for Kids

:  the quality or state of being respectful and considerate of others
:  a polite or generous act or expression <Hot meals were served through the courtesy of volunteers.>
:  something that is a favor and not a right <Transportation is provided as a courtesy of the hotel.>


Next Word in the Dictionary: courtesy bookPrevious Word in the Dictionary: courtesanAll Words Near: courtesy
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears