genteel

adjective gen·teel \ jen-ˈtēl \
Updated on: 18 Nov 2017

Definition of genteel

1 a : 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
2 a : 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

genteelly

play \jen-ˈtē(l)-lē\ adverb

genteelness

noun

genteel was our Word of the Day on 11/25/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of genteel in a Sentence

  1. a person of genteel upbringing

  2. She was born into a genteel family.

  3. an elderly woman living in genteel poverty

  4. speaking in a genteel accent

  5. They lived in a more genteel era.

  6. the genteel manners of an old southern gentleman

Recent Examples of genteel from the Web

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.

Get Fancy With gentil

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.

Origin and Etymology of genteel

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


GENTEEL Defined for English Language Learners

genteel

adjective

Definition of genteel for English Language Learners

  • : 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


GENTEEL Defined for Kids

genteel

adjective gen·teel \ jen-ˈtēl \

Definition of genteel for Students

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


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