court·​ly | \ ˈkȯrt-lē How to pronounce courtly (audio) \
courtlier; courtliest

Definition of courtly

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of a quality befitting the court : elegant
b : insincerely flattering
2 : favoring the policy or party of the court



Definition of courtly (Entry 2 of 2)

: in a courtly manner : politely

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Other Words from courtly


courtliness noun

Examples of courtly in a Sentence

Adjective his courtly manners made him a favorite escort of widowed socialites
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Ballad’s third-person past fits Coriolanus’ intellectual courtly existence, all fake smiles and knowing banter with addled professors. Darren Franich,, "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes review: Hunger Games prequel's darkly funny, way too long," 19 May 2020 Early last month, at a Mexican restaurant in Seattle, the first United States hot spot of the coronavirus outbreak, Mr. Hayes worked around the no-handshaking protocol with a good-natured, mock-courtly bow. John Schwartz, New York Times, "The ‘Profoundly Radical’ Message of Earth Day’s First Organizer," 20 Apr. 2020 Could this courtly gentleman really be capable of brutal savagery? Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "What if you saw something suspicious and did nothing? ‘The Lodger’ posits a consequence.," 21 Aug. 2019 The cops’ fictional pursuit of the Red Queen intersects with historical events and there are some delightful real-life cameos here, particularly the portrait of a wry and courtly Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., then the ambassador to South Vietnam. Jennifer Reese, New York Times, "Poisoned Sake and Mutilated Teddy Bears," 20 Feb. 2020 Conan Doyle himself viewed these courtly and martial virtues as sacrosanct. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "Arthur Conan Doyle wrote more than detective novels. Let’s not forget his more swashbuckling stories.," 15 Jan. 2020 Vincent Canby, however, the courtly film critic for The New York Times, was not one of them. Neil Genzlinger, New York Times, "Dyanne Thorne, 83, Star of Scandalous ‘Ilsa’ Films, Is Dead," 13 Feb. 2020 The bartender inextricably associated with the cocktail was a courtly Scot named Duncan Nichols, who dispensed Pisco Punches from the 1870s until the bar closed in 1920. Gary Kamiya,, "How Pisco Punch, the Holy Grail of San Francisco drinks, was lost and found," 27 Dec. 2019 Don’t let the elegant tails and cufflinks, the measured gait and the courtly bows, fool you., "With rigor and fantasy in equal parts, pianist András Schiff returns to the BSO - The Boston Globe," 19 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb From courtly letterpress to modern, there is stationery with the perfect look and feel to let friends and family know to reserve the day just for you two. oregonlive, "Get ready for a dreamy, budget-minded wedding," 21 June 2020 Eventually, even the shocks of courtly excess — The Great's raison d'être — make way for a more conventional tale of royal intrigue. Inkoo Kang, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Great': TV Review," 1 May 2020 These courtly Republicans either lost to tougher Democrats or knuckled under to Democrats’ demands for larger social programs, higher domestic spending, tighter regulations, and fresher entitlements. Deroy Murdock, National Review, "Go Ahead, Let Trump Make Your Day," 3 Mar. 2020 Netflix’s fantasy epic The Witcher is an enchanting mix of European folktales, Xena-era action/adventure, and courtly intrigue. Matthew Gault, Time, "If You Love Netflix's The Witcher, Try the Video Game it's Based On," 9 Jan. 2020 His gentle, courtly, and often playful manner quickly put Berg’s anxieties to rest. Calvin Tomkins, The New Yorker, "David Hammons Follows His Own Rules," 2 Dec. 2019 In a manicured neighborhood in an Oklahoma City suburb lives a courtly, cigarette-smoking octogenarian named Paul Gaines. Trevor Paulhus, Smithsonian, "When the Socialist Revolution Came to Oklahoma—and Was Crushed," 19 Sep. 2019 Mann is courtly but agonized as TJ; Coiro lends a gentle edge to straight-shooter Noah; Weeks brings a deeply soulful feel to Anna; Yang is by turns quirkily funny and heartrending; and Canó-Flaviá grounds the piece in a feel of hope and goodness. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Funny and moving, La Jolla Playhouse’s ‘The Coast Starlight’ proves a memorable journey," 27 Aug. 2019 In person, Pelli was courtly, diplomatic, and at times, poetic. Steven Litt,, "Remembering architect Cesar Pelli’s big contributions to Cleveland: An appreciation - Steven Litt," 28 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'courtly.' 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 courtly


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1592, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for courtly

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The first known use of courtly was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Courtly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for courtly


How to pronounce courtly (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of courtly

: polite and graceful in a formal way


court·​ly | \ ˈkȯrt-lē How to pronounce courtly (audio) \
courtlier; courtliest

Kids Definition of courtly

: polite and graceful in a formal way courtly manners

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More from Merriam-Webster on courtly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for courtly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with courtly

Spanish Central: Translation of courtly

Nglish: Translation of courtly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of courtly for Arabic Speakers

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