deb·​o·​nair | \ ˌde-bə-ˈner How to pronounce debonair (audio) \

Definition of debonair

1a : suave, urbane a debonair performer
2 archaic : gentle, courteous

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Other Words from debonair

debonairly adverb
debonairness noun

Did You Know?

In Anglo-French, someone who was genteel and well-brought-up was described as "deboneire" - literally "of good family or nature" (from three words: "de bon aire"). When the word was borrowed into English in the 13th century, it basically meant "courteous," a narrow sense now pretty much obsolete. Today's "debonair" incorporates charm, polish, and worldliness, often combined with a carefree attitude (think James Bond). And yes, we tend to use this sense mostly, though not exclusively, of men. In the 19th century, we took the "carefree" part and made it a sense all its own. "The crowd that throngs the wharf as the steamer draws alongside is gay and debonair; it is a noisy, cheerful, gesticulating crowd," wrote Somerset Maugham in 1919 in his novel The Moon and Sixpence.

Examples of debonair in a Sentence

Their history, past and recent, may be scribbled with viciousness and deprivation, but the debonair politeness, the good humor, of the Irish I met, who are still among the poorest people in the West, gave me to believe that calamity breeds character. — G. Y. Dryansky, Condé Nast Traveler, November 1994 Cary Grant is the center of the action and, at this pivotal point in his career, he is suspended between the heroic and the debonair. — Andrew Sarris, Video Review, September 1990 Wyndham Lewis arrived for a stay in Paris and he was a different man from the Lewis of London. He was free and easy and debonair. — Robert McAlmon et al., Being Geniuses Together, (1938) 1968 a debonair man in a suit and top hat his debonair dismissal of my inquiry concerning his financial situation led me to believe that nothing was wrong
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Recent Examples on the Web Bow ties always look debonair á la James Bond, but Southern men can wear them in every color and pattern under the sun for a little extra flair. Kaitlyn Yarborough, Southern Living, "What Does It Really Mean To Have Southern Taste?," 8 June 2018 Clay was very much a kind of Upper East Side debonair man-about-town, living in a big duplex, and Milton was very much downtown, an artist in turtlenecks and very long, wild hair. Christopher Bonanos, Daily Intelligencer, "The Birth of New York Magazine, Told by the People Who Made It," 8 Apr. 2018 Sporting a posh accent and square jaw, Moore, who died Tuesday at age 89, looked the part of a movie star and a debonair international spy. Washington Post, "With an arched brow, Roger Moore found humor in Bond, life," 24 May 2017

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

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for debonair

Middle English debonere, from Anglo-French deboneire, from de bon aire of good family or nature

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The first known use of debonair was in the 13th century

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Cite this Entry

“Debonair.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for debonair



English Language Learners Definition of debonair

somewhat old-fashioned, of a man : dressing and acting in an appealing and sophisticated way : fashionable, attractive, and confident


deb·​o·​nair | \ ˌde-bə-ˈner How to pronounce debonair (audio) \

Kids Definition of debonair

: gracefully charming The debonair gentleman charmed everyone.

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