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 For affordable lodging, check into the 16-room Guest House on downtown Franklin Street, home to antique stores and genteel decay. Andrew Nelson, WSJ, "A Deliciously Diverting Road Trip Through the Deep South," 23 Apr. 2021 The beret is both bohemian and genteel at the same time. Dave Schilling, Los Angeles Times, "Are the beret wearers of Silver Lake and Echo Park here for revolution or croissants?," 17 Mar. 2021 Given the not-too-genteel anti-Semitism of the Temple Academy for Boys, Lloyd's growing closeness with the slightly older Jewish boy puts him in the sights of adolescent bigots. Claude Peck, Star Tribune, "Review: 'Antiquities,' by Cynthia Ozick," 16 Apr. 2021 That said, gambling, (even if more genteel verbs – speculating — may be used) has always been part of the stock market, and always will be. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "From Marks to Sharks: The Rise of the Retail Investor," 10 Mar. 2021 Deceptively genteel on the surface, her novels gesture at vast and intricate political problems. Jo Livingstone, The New Republic, "The Polite Rage of Shirley Hazzard," 19 Feb. 2021 But the genteel ambiance of the interior with a tasteful array of local goods only dates back to when the structure reopened in 2003 after a painstaking renovation. John King, San Francisco Chronicle, "How S.F.'s Ferry Building reflects our pandemic landscape," 6 Mar. 2021 At our predominantly white, elite, and expensive private college in genteel Winter Park? Victoria Brown, Harper's BAZAAR, "I've Played Mas Across the Caribbean Diaspora. This Year Is Different.," 19 Feb. 2021 In just the past few weeks, the European Union quickly took off its mask of genteel bureaucratic liberalism and bared its authoritarian fangs. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "Europe’s Elite Populism," 12 Feb. 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

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Genteel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 May. 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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