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adjective gen·teel \jen-ˈtēl\

Simple Definition of genteel

  • : of or relating to people who have high social status

  • : pretending or trying to have the qualities and manners of people who have high social status

  • : having a quietly appealing or polite quality

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of genteel

  1. 1 a :  having an aristocratic quality or flavor :  stylish b :  of or relating to the gentry or upper class c :  elegant or graceful in manner, appearance, or shape d :  free from vulgarity or rudeness :  polite

  2. 2 a :  maintaining or striving to maintain the appearance of superior or middle-class social status or respectability b (1) :  marked by false delicacy, prudery, or affectation (2) :  conventionally or insipidly pretty <timid and genteel artistic style>

genteelly play \-ˈtē(l)-lē\ adverb
genteelness noun

Examples of genteel in a sentence

  1. a person of genteel upbringing

  2. She was born into a genteel family.

  3. an elderly woman living in genteel poverty

  4. speaking in a genteel accent

  5. They lived in a more genteel era.

  6. the genteel manners of an old southern gentleman

Did You Know?

In Roman times, the Latin noun gens was used to refer to a clan, a group of related people. Its plural "gentes" was used to designate all the people of the world, particularly non-Romans. An adjective form, "gentilis," applied to both senses. Over time, the adjective was borrowed and passed through several languages. It came into Old French as gentil, a word that then meant "high-born" (in modern French it means "nice"); that term was carried over into Anglo-French, where English speakers found and borrowed it in the 16th century.

Origin of genteel

Middle French gentil gentle

First Known Use: 1599

GENTEEL Defined for Kids


adjective gen·teel \jen-ˈtēl\

Definition of genteel for Students

  1. 1 :  relating to the upper classes <a genteel family>

  2. 2 :  having an elegant, tasteful, or polite quality <genteel behavior>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up genteel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to manage or play awkwardly

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