de·​mean·​or di-ˈmē-nər How to pronounce demeanor (audio)
: behavior toward others : outward manner

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The history of demeanor begins with a threat: the word has its roots in Latin minārī, “to threaten.” A form of that word was used in contexts having to do with driving animals—that is, impelling them to move—and from this word developed more recent ancestors having to do with leading, guiding, and behaving. By the 14th century, English had a adopted a word out of this lineage: the verb demean meaning “to conduct or behave (oneself) usually in a proper manner.” (Another demean, defined as “to lower in character, status, or reputation,” entered the language later by means of another root.) The noun demeanor was formed in the following century through the addition of the suffix -or.

Choose the Right Synonym for demeanor

bearing, deportment, demeanor, mien, manner, carriage mean the outward manifestation of personality or attitude.

bearing is the most general of these words but now usually implies characteristic posture.

a woman of regal bearing

deportment suggests actions or behavior as formed by breeding or training.

your deportment was atrocious

demeanor suggests one's attitude toward others as expressed in outward behavior.

the haughty demeanor of the headwaiter

mien is a literary term referring both to bearing and demeanor.

a mien of supreme self-satisfaction

manner implies characteristic or customary way of moving and gesturing and addressing others.

the imperious manner of a man used to giving orders

carriage applies chiefly to habitual posture in standing or walking.

the kind of carriage learned at boarding school

Examples of demeanor in a Sentence

Staffs like the one at Veritas have come a long way from the days when sommeliers … intimidated diners with their overbearing demeanor and French accents. Food & Wine, September 2002
Sam himself, a quiet young man with a rather shy demeanor, was somewhat bemused by all this attention. Lola Oberman, Bird Watcher's Digest, November/December 1994
her warm demeanor made us feel at home
Recent Examples on the Web Her humble beast demeanor probably helps Richh and TaTa be so deferential about crowning her the best rapper in the group, and one of the hottest artists in the city. Andre Gee, Rolling Stone, 29 Nov. 2023 And if that isn't enough to capture your attention, the crystal-clear waters, powdered-sugar beaches, and friendly demeanor of all the locals will get you there. Kaitlyn Yarborough, Southern Living, 27 Nov. 2023 But Smith eventually discovered that Holt’s reserved demeanor hid the knowledge and passion of a dedicated hobbyist. Daniel Wu, Washington Post, 23 Nov. 2023 But alongside Hoeft’s kind and tranquil demeanor was intensity and discipline. Robert Faturechi, ProPublica, 21 Nov. 2023 Armed with a humble attitude and unassuming demeanor, the New York duo of singer-guitarist Daniel Bateman and drummer Steve Bateman straddles the line between hearty Americana, barren indie rock, and low-key emo. Nina Corcoran, Pitchfork, 17 Nov. 2023 The primary way people learn is through watching, listening to and experiencing others, so your actions, choices and demeanor have an effect—a big effect—on those around you. Tracy Brower, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 The helmer also addressed De Niro’s notoriously tight-lipped demeanor. Addie Morfoot, Variety, 28 Oct. 2023 Pedro Pascal and Nicholas Cage This clip from The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent went viral, as social media users latched on to Pedro Pascal’s wholesome demeanor and Nicholas Cage’s outrageous stare. Abrigail Williams, Vogue, 6 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of demeanor was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near demeanor

Cite this Entry

“Demeanor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


de·​mean·​or di-ˈmē-nər How to pronounce demeanor (audio)
: outward manner or behavior : conduct, bearing

Legal Definition


de·​mea·​nor di-ˈmē-nər How to pronounce demeanor (audio)
: outward manner : way of conducting oneself

Note: A jury may consider a witness's demeanor on the stand in determining the witness's credibility.

More from Merriam-Webster on demeanor

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