gen·​teel | \ jen-ˈtēl How to pronounce genteel (audio) \

Definition of genteel

1a : having an aristocratic quality or flavor : stylish
b : of or relating to the gentry or upper class a person of genteel upbringing
c : elegant or graceful in manner, appearance, or shape the genteel manners of an old southern gentleman
d : free from vulgarity or rudeness : polite
2a : maintaining or striving to maintain the appearance of superior or middle-class social status or respectability a shabby genteel mansion
b(1) : marked by false delicacy, prudery, or affectation was genteel on the surface, but had a hard heart
(2) : conventionally or insipidly pretty timid and genteel artistic style

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Other Words from genteel

genteelly \ jen-​ˈtē(l)-​lē How to pronounce genteelly (audio) \ adverb
genteelness noun

Get Fancy With Genteel

In Roman times, the Latin noun gens was used to refer to a clan, a group of related people. Its plural gentes was used to designate all the people of the world, particularly non-Romans. An adjective form, gentilis, applied to both senses. Over time, the adjective was borrowed and passed through several languages. It came into Old French as gentil, a word that then meant "high-born" (in modern French it means "nice"); that term was carried over into Anglo-French, where English speakers found and borrowed it in the early 17th century.

Examples of genteel in a Sentence

a person of genteel upbringing She was born into a genteel family. an elderly woman living in genteel poverty speaking in a genteel accent They lived in a more genteel era. the genteel manners of an old southern gentleman
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Recent Examples on the Web In the leafier, more genteel neighborhoods north of the hospital, people would jump theatrically to the other side of the road when a person approached. Ian Johnson, The New York Review of Books, "A Difficult Birth in Britain’s Stressed Health Service," 4 June 2020 Fresh flowers throughout the property complete the genteel setting. John Wogan, Travel + Leisure, "The Top 15 City Hotels in Charleston," 8 July 2020 But in the past 24 hours, multiple breaking news events have pointed to what may be a more efficient, less genteel tool for stopping fossil fuel projects in their tracks: social movements. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, "How Anti-Pipeline Protesters Made the Fossil Fuel Industry Face Economic Reality," 6 July 2020 The trope of the romantic, genteel Southern plantation runs deep in American history. Pam Kelley,, "Southern neighborhoods have been named ‘plantations’ for decades. That could be changing.," 4 July 2020 More elaborate interpretations abound for his tale of a ravenous great white terrorising the genteel seaside town of Amity on Long Island. The Economist, "Home Entertainment In “Jaws”, bungling officials confront an invisible threat," 2 July 2020 His languid acerbic wit and genteel sophistication are the perfect foil to Carell's tightly wound, rough-around-the-edges, everything-by-the-book general, who feels deeply but keeps those feelings bottled up, as a good soldier should. Ars Staff, Ars Technica, "The Ars verdict is in: Space Force is the best new series of 2020 (so far)," 29 May 2020 That is why two clashes between Indian and Chinese soldiers in recent days have been limited to a relatively genteel form of combat: fisticuffs. The Economist, "High dudgeon The Chinese and Indian armies settle a clash by fisticuffs," 16 May 2020 Most people interacting with him, as part of the fair, or in the polite, genteel company of civilized, white society, probably never bothered to recognize the difference between the two roles that Cabrera inhabited. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, "A New History of Being Asian-American," 14 May 2020

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

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for genteel

borrowed from French gentil literally, "of aristocratic birth," going back to Old French — more at gentle entry 1

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Time Traveler for genteel

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The first known use of genteel was in 1601

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Last Updated

27 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Genteel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for genteel


How to pronounce genteel (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of genteel

somewhat old-fashioned : of or relating to people who have high social status
: pretending or trying to have the qualities and manners of people who have high social status
: having a quietly appealing or polite quality


gen·​teel | \ jen-ˈtēl How to pronounce genteel (audio) \

Kids Definition of genteel

1 : relating to the upper classes a genteel family
2 : having an elegant, tasteful, or polite quality genteel behavior

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More from Merriam-Webster on genteel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for genteel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with genteel

Spanish Central: Translation of genteel

Nglish: Translation of genteel for Spanish Speakers

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