Definition of genteel
- a person of genteel upbringing
- the genteel manners of an old southern gentleman
- a shabby genteel mansion
- was genteel on the surface, but had a hard heart
- timid and genteel artistic style
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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
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.
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.
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