co·​mi·​ty | \ ˈkä-mə-tē How to pronounce comity (audio) , ˈkō- How to pronounce comity (audio) \
plural comities

Definition of comity

1a : friendly social atmosphere : social harmony group activities promoting comity bipartisan comity in the Senate
b : a loose widespread community based on common social institutions the comity of civilization
c : comity of nations trans-Atlantic comity
d : the informal and voluntary recognition by courts of one jurisdiction of the laws and judicial decisions of another
2 : avoidance of proselytizing members of another religious denomination

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Did You Know?

Our country soweth also in the field of our breasts many precious seeds, as … honest behavior, affability, comity, wrote English clergyman Thomas Becon in 1543. Becon's use is the earliest documented appearance of comity - a word derived from Latin comitas, meaning "courteousness" (and probably related to the Sanskrit word for "he smiles"). Comity is largely used in political and judicial contexts. Since 1862 comity of nations has referred to countries bound by a courteous relationship based on mutual recognition of executive, legislative, and judicial acts. And, in legal contexts, comity refers to the recognition by courts of one jurisdiction of the laws and judicial decisions of another.

Examples of comity in a Sentence

the comity that has always existed among the town's houses of worship
Recent Examples on the Web Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cuomo, reiterated on Friday the desire for comity and said everyone should support a transformational project for the city. Jimmy Vielkind, WSJ, "Cuomo’s Penn Station Plans Echo Robert Moses," 3 Feb. 2020 But many on the left worry that, despite the comity that characterized much of their interactions with each other in 2019, the zero-sum nature of the primary would eventually force each camp to try to undermine the other’s support at the ballot box. New York Times, "‘Mom and Dad Are Fighting’: Left-Wing Democrats Lament Sanders-Warren Rift," 14 Jan. 2020 This time, fueled by the advent of social media and television networks that often seem like arms of the political parties, comity has been tossed aside. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "Trump's impeachment trial in Senate likely to be more partisan than Bill Clinton's was in 1999," 20 Dec. 2019 Others warn against waxing too nostalgic about any comity surrounding the Clinton impeachment. Marc Fisher, Anchorage Daily News, "Analysis: Trump disrupts and divides in his impeachment as he has done in his presidency," 19 Dec. 2019 In the past, bipartisan comity was a hallmark of Washington: get to know political opponents as people, then find common ground. Washington Post, "Trump’s absence at Washington’s premier social event is a relief for some. But the prestige of the presidency is missed.," 6 Dec. 2019 The transcripts also will offer a detailed look at a yearlong probe that began with a promise of bipartisan comity and quickly descended into partisan bickering. Byron Tau, WSJ, "House Panel Votes to Release Transcripts of Its Russia Probe," 28 Sep. 2018 Essential to good governance & comity, Washington attorneys like him are more numerous than the jokes would allow. George Weigel, National Review, "Remembering Rob Odle," 2 Dec. 2019 In her speech on November 7th, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer repeated the customary pieties of Franco-German comity. The Economist, "Charlemagne Europe needs to defend itself better, but cannot do without America," 21 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'comity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of comity

1543, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for comity

borrowed from Latin cōmitāt-, cōmitās "friendliness, courtesy, graciousness," from cōmis "kind, obliging, gracious" (probably going back to Old Latin cosmis, of uncertain origin) + -itāt- -itās -ity

Note: The Latin word cōmis (Old Latin cosmis, assuming that this word in the Duenos Inscription has been correctly identified) has traditionally been analyzed as *co-smei̯- "draw one's face into a smile," with the Indo-European base *smei̯- "laugh, smile" (see smile entry 1)—though a derivational mechanism for turning such a verbal compound into an unsuffixed adjective is left unspecified. An alternative explanation as a denominal adjective "having/accompanied by a smile" is possible (of the compound type represented by Greek éntheos "full of/possessed by a deity"), though there is no Indo-European evidence for a corresponding noun *smi- "smile."

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The first known use of comity was in 1543

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Last Updated

5 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Comity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for comity


co·​mi·​ty | \ ˈkä-mə-tē, ˈkō- How to pronounce comity (audio) \

Legal Definition of comity

2 : the informal and voluntary recognition by courts of one jurisdiction of the laws and judicial decisions of another

called also judicial comity

— compare choice of law, federalism, full faith and credit

More from Merriam-Webster on comity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for comity

Britannica English: Translation of comity for Arabic Speakers

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