deb·​o·​nair ˌde-bə-ˈner How to pronounce debonair (audio)
: suave, urbane
a debonair performer
archaic : gentle, courteous
debonairly adverb
debonairness noun

Did you know?

Calling someone debonair is another way of saying they’ve got a certain je ne sais quoi, or to be more specific (and complete the rhyme): savoir faire. Ooh la la! If this all sounds ultra chic to you, you’re not alone. French has a certain cachet, a fanciness and prestige owing in part to its deep etymological, historical, and political connections with English. This extends to many French words that English has borrowed outright or adapted, including debonair. In Anglo-French, someone who was genteel and thought to be well-brought-up was described as deboneire—literally “of good family or nature” (from the three-word phrase de bon aire). When the word was borrowed into English in the 13th century, it basically meant “courteous,” but today’s debonair incorporates suaveness, nonchalance, and maybe even a soupçon of esprit (carefree sophistication with a dash of wit).

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
Recent Examples on the Web David, meanwhile, went classic and debonair—his fashion M.O.—in a deep navy suit, complete with a white button-up, tie, and leather loafers. Christian Allaire, Vogue, 3 Oct. 2023 Who can play this debonair, rich, handsome billionaire who walks in, who is an accelerant and pushes everyone toward their truth? Selome Hailu, Variety, 11 Oct. 2023 Elevate your slip-on style with this pair of dressy mules, which feature debonair pom-poms and pointed toes for a sophisticated take on the trendy footwear style but still feels unique. Alesandra Dubin, Travel + Leisure, 2 Oct. 2023 The show was built around Vaughn’s debonair American agent, Napoleon Solo, with Mr. McCallum’s character initially envisioned as little more than a cerebral second banana from the Soviet Union. Frances Vinall, Washington Post, 26 Sep. 2023 Around thirty Maoists surrounded the home of Megh Bahadur Koirala, a tall, debonair pharmacist and a representative of the ruling Nepali Congress Party. Sean Williams, Harper's Magazine, 11 Sep. 2023 Canet is unexpectedly affecting as Mathieu’s debonair charm, for so long his stock-in-trade, suddenly seems inadequate in the face of Alice’s honesty, just as his career insecurities feel trivial. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Sep. 2023 Hackman's dirty, racist cop, with all his flaws, is contrasted with a debonair and elusive drug kingpin, played by Spanish actor Fernando Rey. Adam Bernstein,, 7 Aug. 2023 Beyond capturing panic in the streets with cinéma-vérité flourishes, the film was an exploration of moral ambiguity: Hackman’s dirty, racist cop, with all his flaws, is contrasted with a debonair and elusive drug kingpin, played by Spanish actor Fernando Rey. Adam Bernstein, Washington Post, 7 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'debonair.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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


Dictionary Entries Near debonair

Cite this Entry

“Debonair.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


deb·​o·​nair ˌdeb-ə-ˈna(ə)r How to pronounce debonair (audio)
: gracefully charming
a debonair manner
debonairly adverb
debonairness noun

Middle English debonere "courteous, debonair," from early French deboneire (same meaning), from earlier phrase de bon aire "of good family"

More from Merriam-Webster on debonair

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