gen·​try | \ ˈjen-trē How to pronounce gentry (audio) \
plural gentries

Definition of gentry

1a : upper or ruling class : aristocracy
b : a class whose members are entitled to bear a coat of arms though not of noble rank especially : wealthy landowners having such status
2 : people of a specified class or kind : folks no real heroes or heroines among the academic gentry— R. G. Hanvey
3a : the condition or rank of a gentleman
b obsolete : the qualities appropriate to a person of gentle (see gentle entry 1 sense 4a) birth especially : courtesy

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Examples of gentry in a Sentence

poor tenant farmers working for landed gentry the old-line yachting gentry frowns on vulgar displays of wealth
Recent Examples on the Web On April 10, 1805, in honor of the Christian Holy Week, a German immigrant and conductor named Jacob Eckhard organized a special concert for the gentry of Charleston, South Carolina. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Young America Came to Love Beethoven," 17 Dec. 2020 Ellison tucked one of his acutely detailed photographs of the attributes of white ruling-class society into the American galleries, next to a double-portrait by Bostonian John Singleton Copley showing 18th century British landed gentry. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Extreme alienation reigns in the Hammer Museum’s (unopened) biennial," 10 Nov. 2020 As the sons of gentry, most of these Virginians had access to schools and colleges steeped in Enlightenment thinking, where they were exposed to ideas about science, ethics and politics that could be used to better the world. Emily Bobrow, WSJ, "Lynne Cheney’s Journey to the Founding Era," 25 Sep. 2020 Once upon a time, only landed gentry with legions of servants – in particular, the British aristocracy in the 18th century – had lawns. CBS News, "Maintaining a perfect lawn in a world turned upside-down," 6 Sep. 2020 He is descended from slave-owning plantation gentry in South Carolina on one side, and a violent white supremacist, a petit blanc, from Louisiana on the other — a man who tried to overthrow the government eight years after the Civil War. David Holahan, USA TODAY, "'Life of a Klansman' review: Edward Ball confronts the bad (racist) apples in his Family Tree," 2 Aug. 2020 In the late middle ages, the agrarian and mercantile peasants of the European suburbium were mostly seen as underclasses to the urban gentry. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Revenge of the Suburbs," 19 June 2020 The physician Galen would recall a member of the Roman gentry who accidentally drank a leech when his servant drew water from a public fountain. Edward Watts, Smithsonian Magazine, "What Rome Learned From the Deadly Antonine Plague of 165 A.D.," 28 Apr. 2020 Under the direction of Autumn de Wilde, a longtime rock-music photographer making an interesting cinematic debut, the movie heightens the costumed formality, the precise ritual, the almost absurd theater of the Georgian gentry. Ross Douthat, National Review, "The Pleasures of Autumn de Wilde’s Emma.," 2 Apr. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3b

History and Etymology for gentry

Middle English gentrie "high birth or rank, properties ideally characteristic of those of high birth, the wellborn collectively," borrowed from Anglo-French genterie "high birth," from gent "of aristocratic birth" + -erie -ery — more at gent entry 1

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Time Traveler for gentry

Time Traveler

The first known use of gentry was in the 14th century

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Statistics for gentry

Last Updated

21 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gentry.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for gentry


gen·​try | \ ˈjen-trē How to pronounce gentry (audio) \

Kids Definition of gentry

: people of high social status

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