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

Definition of debonair

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

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 the three-word phrase 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. The "carefree" characteristic of a debonair person influenced the modern "lighthearted, nonchalant" sense of the word, as illustrated by film critic Owen Gleiberman: "It wouldn't be wrong to call Ocean's Eleven a trifle, but it's a debonair trifle made with high-wire effrontery, the kind that can't be faked. This giddy and glancing charade is one of the most sheerly pleasurable movies to come out this year…."

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 Its communist agents are charming and almost debonair, contrary to previous depictions of screaming, hard-faced Soviet soldiers. Washington Post, 22 Apr. 2022 Count Orlok, played by Max Schreck, is reclusive and antisocial, not a courtly debonair. Roy Schwartz, CNN, 2 Apr. 2022 Nascar was America’s motorsport of choice; Formula 1 was the debonair European stepsibling whose competitions were held in places such as Azerbaijan and Monaco, and whose races were referred to as Grands Prix. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, 11 Mar. 2022 On the top floor, Beaujard’s bedroom and the guest room feel breezy and debonair, in pale shades of white and yellow with accents of ebony and chocolate, evoking both the formal side of late 19th-century French design and fanciful postwar modernism. New York Times, 10 Nov. 2021 The video stars the London rapper as an impossibly debonair butler who seduces his boss before things take a rather ugly turn (with J Balvin popping up in the most unexpected of places). Charu Sinha, Vulture, 30 July 2021 Whether selling wine or simply drinking it, Mr. Spurrier was a debonair figure, hair perfectly coifed, a handkerchief peeking out just so from his jacket pocket. Eric Asimov, New York Times, 16 Mar. 2021 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, 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, 8 Apr. 2018 See More

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.

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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Last Updated

25 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Debonair.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for debonair


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

Kids Definition of debonair

: gracefully charming The debonair gentleman charmed everyone.

More from Merriam-Webster on debonair

Nglish: Translation of debonair for Spanish Speakers


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