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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from courtly


courtliness noun

Examples of courtly in a Sentence


his courtly manners made him a favorite escort of widowed socialites

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The allegorical range is marvelous in tapestries, metalwork, architectural fragments (painted ceiling panels, carved column capitals), game boards and other medieval objects of courtly and monastic life. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Unicorns are just one of the wild rides in the Getty’s marvelous ‘Book of Beasts’," 23 July 2019 Correspondingly, the lords and ladies eventually must concede that fashionable courtly restraint must give way to more open expressions of interest in romantic pairings. Mike Giuliano,, "Resistance is futile in Shakespeare's 'Love's Labour's Lost' in Ellicott City," 5 July 2019 Whether true or not, the courtly gossip only further undermined both Joanna’s legitimacy and Henry’s power. National Geographic, "To seize power in Spain, Queen Isabella had to play it smart," 28 Mar. 2019 The waiters at the Musso & Frank Grill are like that — bossy and a trifle intimidating, softened by those fire-engine-red bolero jackets and all of those courtly manners. Michael Callahan, The Hollywood Reporter, "Musso & Frank Icon Sergio Gonzalez Served Stars From Sinatra to the Rolling Stones: "We Treat People Like Our Own Family"," 8 June 2019 Maestri’s Scarpia, though, was pure mastery, with the character’s courtly pretensions expressed with an effective vocal veneer but with no stinting on the character’s dark heart. David Patrick Stearns,, "Love 'Tosca'? Philadelphia Orchestra's staging doesn't disappoint," 13 May 2018 Among the adult supporting characters, Angela Lansbury has some amusing moments as Aunt March and Michael Gambon some touchingly courtly ones as Mr. Laurence, the wealthy neighbor. New York Times, "Review: ‘Little Women,’ Through British Eyes," 11 May 2018 The program began with vocal music by Rossi in Hebrew and Italian, continued with later works based on synagogue melodies collected by Benedetto Marcello, and eventually returned to Rossi for courtly dances and a wedding ode with echo effects. Alan Artner,, "Review: It was Italian Baroque music, and it was spectacular," 9 Apr. 2018 On a sweltering morning in Old Havana, a courtly figure in a crisp gray guayabera shirt weaves through the Plaza de Armas, the city’s Spanish colonial heart, trying not to attract attention. Néstor Martí, Smithsonian, "The Man Who Saved Havana," 18 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Exceedingly tall, distinguished, and courtly, the polyglot designer Michael Howells, who has died at the age of 61, was a towering figure in every way—a man of infinite charm, wit, and personal elegance. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Hamish Bowles Remembers Michael Howells," 19 July 2018 Powell, a courtly Virginian, was then the court's moderate, keeping the bench from tilting too far left or right. Bill Mears, Fox News, "Anthony Kennedy: Swing justice wielded quiet power in a range of high-profile cases," 27 June 2018 The scrapbooks have been digitized so that visitors will be able to page through excerpts from them, and Mr. Cunningham’s voice — courtly and unfailingly polite — rings through, even if his distinctive Boston accent does not. Matthew Schneier, New York Times, "Bill Cunningham’s Unseen Scrapbooks," 8 June 2018 The Pas de Six actually has seven dancers; Thursday’s cast — Kathleen Breen Combes, Lia Cirio, Ji Young Chae, Ashley Ellis, Patrick Yocum, Paul Craig, and Patric Palkens — was, again, Bournonville courtly and communal. Jeffrey Gantz,, "Boston Ballet has the measure of Bournonville in ‘La Sylphide’," 25 May 2018 The film offers around an hour of scene-setting and discussion, leading to a Tennessee gathering of American Renaissance believers, where courtly Taylor urges attendees not to let protesters goad them. John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Alt-Right: Age of Rage': Film Review | SXSW 2018," 10 Mar. 2018 And no one besides her courtly older boyfriend Orlando (sophisticated and suave Francisco Reyes) understands the young singer-waitress. Laura Demarco,, "'A Fantastic Woman': Oscar-nominated Chilean film lives up to its name (review)," 27 Feb. 2018 Cooper is from Abingdon, Virginia—southern, artsy—and still retains the town’s courtly, speak-in-complete-sentences-and-remember-your-name manners. Zach Baron, GQ, "Director Scott Cooper on Hostiles and Making Movies About People Living on the Margins," 22 Dec. 2017 And temperamentally, the Arthur that Ritchie and his co-writers Lionel Wigram and Joby Harold have conjured is no more a creature of mannered, courtly Sir Thomas Malory than is one of the gangsters from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Katy Waldman, Slate Magazine, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword," 12 May 2017

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.

See More

First Known Use of courtly


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


circa 1592, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about courtly

Statistics for courtly

Last Updated

29 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for courtly

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for courtly



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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on courtly

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with courtly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for courtly

Spanish Central: Translation of courtly

Nglish: Translation of courtly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of courtly for Arabic Speakers

Comments on courtly

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


marked by turns or indirection

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!