prop·er | \ ˈprä-pər \

Definition of proper 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : referring to one individual only

b : belonging to one : own

c : appointed for the liturgy of a particular day

d : represented heraldically in natural color

2 : belonging characteristically to a species or individual : peculiar

3 chiefly dialectal : good-looking, handsome

4 : very good : excellent

5 chiefly British : utter, absolute

6 : strictly limited to a specified thing, place, or idea the city proper

7a : strictly accurate : correct

b archaic : virtuous, respectable

c : strictly decorous : genteel

8 : marked by suitability, rightness, or appropriateness : fit

9 : being a mathematical subset (such as a subgroup) that does not contain all the elements of the inclusive set from which it is derived



Definition of proper (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : the parts of the Mass that vary according to the liturgical calendar

2 : the part of a missal or breviary containing the proper of the Mass and the offices proper to the holy days of the liturgical year



Definition of proper (Entry 3 of 3)

chiefly dialectal

: in a thorough manner : completely

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Other words from proper


properly adverb
properness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for proper


fit, suitable, meet, proper, appropriate, fitting, apt, happy, felicitous mean right with respect to some end, need, use, or circumstance. fit stresses adaptability and sometimes special readiness for use or action. fit for battle suitable implies an answering to requirements or demands. clothes suitable for camping meet suggests a just proportioning. meet payment proper suggests a suitability through essential nature or accordance with custom. proper acknowledgement appropriate implies eminent or distinctive fitness. an appropriate gift fitting implies harmony of mood or tone. a fitting end apt connotes a fitness marked by nicety and discrimination. apt quotations happy suggests what is effectively or successfully appropriate. a happy choice of words felicitous suggests an aptness that is opportune, telling, or graceful. a felicitous phrase

Examples of proper in a Sentence


It is not proper to speak that way. The children need to learn proper behavior. It would not be proper for you to borrow the ladder without asking first. She is a very prim and proper young lady. Is this the proper spelling of your name? You need to eat a proper meal instead of junk food. Each step must be done in the proper order.


They beat us good and proper.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

According to her Instagram, Greenwell first primed Seyfried with proper skincare, using Sisley Paris Hydra-Global Serum]({: rel=nofollow} and Botanical Eye and Lip Contour Balm. Lindsey V Thompson, Allure, "Amanda Seyfried’s Makeup Artist Turned the Star’s Eye Infection Into a Look at the Mamma Mia 2 Premiere," 13 July 2018 The smoking of e-cigarettes, like proper cigarettes, is banned on Air China flights. David Meyer, Fortune, "How a Vaping Co-Pilot Allegedly Caused an Oxygen Emergency on His Plane," 13 July 2018 That often pushes aside the basic building blocks of a healthy life, such as proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Clay Marsh, STAT, "Facing deaths of despair from the depths of despair in West Virginia," 12 July 2018 Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic do a fabulous job of bringing this tragedy to life and setting it in its proper context. Monitor Staff, The Christian Science Monitor, "10 best books of July: the Monitor's picks," 12 July 2018 These representations share the idea that, despite becoming mothers, these women have unnaturally resisted the requirements of the role, failing to redirect their attention and emotional energies to the proper object. Katherine Fusco, The Atlantic, "Hereditary and the Monstrousness of Creative Moms," 11 July 2018 Although Messenger Kids seemingly follows proper protocols — and there are certainly good uses for it, such as a child being able to chat with family members — many kids already have access to cellphones that can accomplish those connection needs. Dani Deahl, The Verge, "Facebook’s controversial Messenger Kids is rolling out to Canada and Peru," 22 June 2018 To Persky’s supporters, Smith’s sentencing reflects proper protocol and the judge’s commitment to rehabilitation. Gabriel Baumgaertner,, "Brock Turner, the 'Athlete Bias,' and the Movement That Produced the Recall of Judge Aaron Persky," 6 June 2018 The proper way to do CPR is actually pretty simple and involves using your hands to pump a person’s chest until help arrives. Korin Miller, SELF, "Think You Know How to Do CPR? You Might Be Wrong," 31 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Fit 411 Red Fleece is known for having a more modern (read: slimmer) fit than Brooks Brothers proper, and this shirt is no exception. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "The Chambray Shirt: Why Every Man Needs This All-American Staple," 3 July 2018 For the new analysis, WalletHub researchers compared the 100 most populated U.S. city propers across four key dimensions: cost of ownership and maintenance; traffic and infrastructure; safety; and access to vehicles and maintenance. Fiza Pirani, ajc, "Driving in Atlanta is painful — but it’s far from the worst," 11 July 2018 Instead of the drunken tinker Christopher Sly, who wakes up as a lord in an elaborate prank that gives way to the performance proper, a female writer dressed as a man is introduced. Charles Mcnulty,, "South Coast Rep's 'Shrew!' trips along the rutted road of Shakespearean updates," 2 Apr. 2018 Close to 650,000 people now live in Las Vegas proper, with an estimated 2.2 million in the greater region, and some of the country's biggest investors see it as a fertile sports market. Jesse Dougherty,, "Las Vegas, shaken by tragedy, finds an unlikely rallying point: Its first-year NHL team," 27 May 2018 My next guest says the Mueller proper should keep going. Fox News, "Ann Coulter on the status of Trump's immigration agenda," 20 May 2018 About 484,674 people were living in New Orleans proper in 2000, the last official census count before the storm. Jennifer Larino,, "Is New Orleans' population growth slowing down?," 27 Mar. 2018 Coming up are two character spinoffs from the sequel, The Nun and The Crooked Man, along with a third movie proper. Tom Philip, GQ, "Mess Up Your Weekend By Streaming The Conjuring, One of the Best Pure Horror Movies Ever, on Netflix," 3 Feb. 2018 Sorry, but no: the best music festival on the west coast actually takes place north of Palm Springs in Los Angeles proper, and is happening this very weekend: FYF Fest. Lilian Min, Cosmopolitan, "6 Reasons Why FYF Fest Should Be Your New Summer Festival Destination," 21 July 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

Many people know Miami proper, especially South Beach, but there’s more to Miami than tanned skin and toned physiques. Danielle Young, The Root, "Meet the Mayor of Miami Gardens, Fla., One of the Largest Black-Run Cities in the Country," 2 Mar. 2018 To date, Kansas City proper has seen over 2,000 burglaries in 2017, a rise of 2 percent since last year. Anne Kniggendorf, kansascity, "Safe at home: Alarm systems are an option but not the only one, experts say," 9 Oct. 2017 To maximize the light in their airy, white room, the couple cut a large square window in the wall between Weiner’s closet and the bedroom proper, allowing light to stream in. Kit Waskom Pollard,, "At home with WBAL anchor Deborah Weiner," 13 Sep. 2017 Liverpool confirmed qualification to the Champions League proper after seeing off Hoffenheim on Wednesday., "Jurgen Klopp Gives a Transfer Update to Liverpool Fans as the Window is Set to Close Next Week," 25 Aug. 2017 If Presley’s set holds at the top when the chart proper is published this Friday, the late singer will extend his lead as the solo artist with the most U.K. No. 1 albums. Lars Brandle, Billboard, "Elvis Presley Could Extend U.K. Albums Chart Record," 15 Aug. 2017 Five miles down the road in McCarthy proper, Ma Johnson's Hotel and sister property, the Lancaster's Backpackers Hotel, offer luxury and budget accommodations, respectively, but with a similar model of clean, comfortable accommodations the charm. Erin Kirkland, Alaska Dispatch News, "McCarthy area offers tempting mix of history, adventure," 1 Aug. 2017 Dark Horse is closed on Memorial Day proper, however. Adam Lukach,, "12 Memorial Day food and drink deals around Chicago," 25 May 2017 Now the train is chugging into the Douro wine region proper: a land of venerable estates on hills rising precipitously from the riverbank. Paul Ames, CNN, "Portugal's Douro Presidential Train: The world's tastiest rail journey," 22 May 2017

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for proper


Middle English propre proper, own, from Anglo-French, from Latin proprius own

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Phrases Related to proper

proper to

Statistics for proper

Last Updated

10 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for proper

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

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More Definitions for proper



English Language Learners Definition of proper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: correct according to social or moral rules

: behaving in a way that is correct according to social or moral rules

: exactly correct



English Language Learners Definition of proper (Entry 2 of 2)

: in a complete way


prop·er | \ ˈprä-pər \

Kids Definition of proper

1 : correct according to social or moral rules proper behavior

2 : appropriate entry 1, suitable Use the proper tool for the job.

3 : strictly accurate : correct “… do everything in the proper order … and I'm sure all will be well.” —E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan

4 : referring to one individual only a proper name

5 : considered in its true or basic meaning Her family lived outside the city proper.



Legal Definition of proper 

: marked by fitness or correctness especially : being in accordance with established procedure, law, jurisdiction, or standards of care, fairness, and justice argued that the shareholder was acting in bad faith and lacked a proper purpose for examining its records

Other words from proper

properly adverb

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Comments on proper

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to make amends

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