adjective de·cent \ ˈdē-sᵊnt \
Updated on: 21 Mar 2018

Definition of decent

1 archaic
b : well-formed : handsome
2 a : conforming to standards of propriety, good taste, or morality
  • decent behavior
b : modestly clothed
3 : free from immodesty or obscenity
  • decent language
4 : fairly good : adequate, satisfactory
  • decent wages
5 : marked by moral integrity, kindness, and goodwill
  • hard-working and decent folks
  • it's very decent of them to help



Examples of decent in a Sentence

  1. Not long afterward, his father's health starts to fail. Mrs. Queenan has kicked him out, and he's landed in a flophouse. When word reaches Joe, he takes out his checkbook and moves his father into a decent apartment. —James McManusNew York Times Book Review26 Apr. 2009
  2. In a whiney, rambling speech at his sentencing he took a page from the script of the earlier case, once again portraying himself as a flawed but decent man unfairly caught up in circumstances. —Bill Hewitt et al.People22 Dec. 2008
  3. Tommy Railles, the doctor's boy. Just a great kid. Smart at school, a decent athlete, great with the girls, wonderful with older people. —Ward JustForgetfulness(2006) 2007
  4. The next time an overly friendly blond sidles up in a crowded bar and asks you to order her a brand-name martini, or a cheery tourist couple wonder whether you can take their picture with their sleek new camera-in-a-cell phone, you might want to think twice. There's a decent chance that these strangers are pitchmen in disguise, paid to oh-so-subtly pique your interest in their product. —Paul McFedriesWord Spy2004
  5. I don't understand how so decent a person could be involved with this kind of crime.

  6. He is a decent guy who would help anyone in need.

  7. You need to do the decent thing and tell her what happened.

  8. Are there any decent schools in that area?

  9. I've got to get some decent clothes.

Recent Examples of decent from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of decent

Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin decent-, decens, present participle of decēre to be fitting; akin to Latin decus honor, dignus worthy, Greek dokein to seem, seem good

decent Synonyms


up to snuff;

Synonym Discussion of decent

chaste, pure, modest, decent mean free from all taint of what is lewd or salacious. chaste primarily implies a refraining from acts or even thoughts or desires that are not virginal or not sanctioned by marriage vows.
    • they maintained chaste relations
pure differs from chaste in implying innocence and absence of temptation rather than control of one's impulses and actions.
    • the pure of heart
modest and decent apply especially to deportment and dress as outward signs of inward chastity or purity.
    • preferred more modest swimsuits
    • decent people didn't go to such movies

DECENT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of decent for English Language Learners

  • : polite, moral, and honest

  • : showing kindness : seeming to care about the feelings or problems of other people

  • : good enough but not the best : adequate or acceptable

DECENT Defined for Kids


adjective de·cent \ ˈdē-sᵊnt \

Definition of decent for Students

1 : meeting an accepted standard of good manners or morality
  • Do the decent thing and confess.
2 : being moral and good
  • She was raised by decent folks.
3 : not offensive
  • decent language
4 : fairly good
  • decent grades



Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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


located in the vanguard

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Up in the Sky: A Quiz

  • koninck-landscape-painting-1665
  • What language does the word sky come from?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!