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 genteel (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 There was little of the genteel Atticus Finch in Mr. Bailey, certainly., 3 June 2021 Though punctilious about his honor, in civilian life Poe normally comported himself with genteel courtliness. Washington Post, 2 June 2021 Maybe twenty or thirty years ago, this policy of genteel tact would have been a sensible pathway toward solving and mitigating the worst of what humanity had in store for the planet. Nick Martin, The New Republic, 2 June 2021 In the nineteen-seventies, Dupont Circle, a shabby-genteel neighborhood just past the edge of downtown Washington, was the acropolis of Naderism. Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker, 31 May 2021 And yet the chafing dish has the genteel task of keeping food warm. Bernadette Kinlaw, Arkansas Online, 31 May 2021 But social media, along with viral video, has barged into the genteel world of professional golf. New York Times, 27 May 2021 For affordable lodging, check into the 16-room Guest House on downtown Franklin Street, home to antique stores and genteel decay. Andrew Nelson, WSJ, 23 Apr. 2021 The beret is both bohemian and genteel at the same time. Dave Schilling, Los Angeles Times, 17 Mar. 2021

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

10 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Genteel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for genteel



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

More from Merriam-Webster on genteel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for genteel

Nglish: Translation of genteel for Spanish Speakers


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