prop·​er | \ ˈprä-pər How to pronounce proper (audio) \

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


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

Adjective 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. Adverb They beat us good and proper.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The study recommended mandatory annual training for officers in areas such as proper use and reporting of force, de-escalation and bias. Christian Sheckler, The Indianapolis Star, "South Bend police has no mandatory de-escalation training, but 7 'combat shoots' each year," 9 July 2020 The Justice Department had scheduled five executions set to begin in December, but some of the inmates challenged the new procedures in court, arguing that the government was circumventing proper methods in order to wrongly execute inmates quickly. Michael Balsamo, Anchorage Daily News, "Feds to execute 1st inmate in 17 years for Arkansas murders," 13 July 2020 Cafeteria seating and food service will be modified for proper spacing. Beth Mlady, cleveland, "Polaris Career Center enables seniors to finish programs despite pandemic, fall planning under way," 13 July 2020 The Mettler tasting room, however, is just to the east of Lodi proper, on a 25-acre estate previously occupied by Vino Con Brio Winery. Mike Dunne,, "At Mettler Family, Cabernet Sauvignon in Zinfandel country," 13 July 2020 Sensible advice from a co-worker or friend could put your problem in its proper perspective, make work go faster and boost productivity. Magi Helena, oregonlive, "Horoscope for July 13, 2020: Happy birthday Ken Jeong; Capricorn listen to sensible advice," 13 July 2020 In her essay, Montiel de Shuman also illustrated how culturally insensitive pairings of paintings without proper context could negatively affect young patrons. Ryan Patrick Hooper, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit museum's director on leave amid allegations of toxic culture, racial harassment," 12 July 2020 My efforts to obtain proper workout gear were about as successful as my ability to grab a grocery delivery slot—not very. Rachel Schallom, Fortune, "The best things I’ve bought during quarantine so far," 12 July 2020 The proper wording is to list pertinent family members in relation to the deceased. Judith Martin, Washington Post, "Miss Manners: Logistics after a postponed wedding," 11 July 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The counties outside of Montgomery proper are notable, too. Ramsey Archibald |, al, "Top spots to watch in Alabama as coronavirus cases surge in June," 20 June 2020 In a luxury class where the German mainstays all do proper and upstanding things like exude confidence and project stately reserve, the Quattroporte is a wild, seductive design. Jared Gall, Car and Driver, "2020 Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 Is Not Special Enough," 21 Apr. 2020 But the number of restaurants inside Dallas proper is getting slimmer. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, "26-year-old Taco Cabana on Dallas’ Lower Greenville closed — one of 19 shutterings in Texas," 13 Jan. 2020 Indianapolis proper can expect a milder version of wintry weather, Skowronek said. Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star, "Rain, sub-freezing temperatures bring chance for slick roads over holiday weekend," 16 Jan. 2020 Huntsville proper recently passed Montgomery to become the second largest city in Alabama, and is on pace to become the largest. Ramsey Archibald |, al, "Alabama’s slowing population growth relies on international migration," 1 Dec. 2019 Already, the median market rent in San Francisco proper rose nearly 38 percent between 2012 and 2017, according to online housing marketplace Trulia. Washington Post, "Apple says it will spend $2.5 billion on housing crunch," 4 Nov. 2019 San Diego County is already home to five Burlington locations, including stores in Chula Vista, La Mesa and San Diego proper. Brittany Meiling, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Discount clothing and decor retailer Burlington opening National City and Oceanside stores," 26 Sep. 2019 Any Trump appearance in San Francisco proper would be almost guaranteed to generate huge protests, something the president has tried to avoid in the past. John Wildermuth,, "Trump heading to Bay Area for September fundraiser, GOP donors told," 28 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb The port proper is connected to Market Three by a narrow cement path that wends between an overgrown empty lot known as the Mountain, a permanent black puddle the size of a swimming pool, and the port’s 20-foot-high outside wall. Aurora Almendral, New York Times, "In Slum at Epicenter of Duterte’s Drug Crackdown, Fear and Love Coexist," 2 Apr. 2020 The carriage house proper boasted a livery room and space for six large equipages. John Freeman Gill, New York Times, "The Many Lives of a Carriage House," 25 Oct. 2019 Big red signs warn them of the danger to their lives at the checkpoints that divide Israel proper from the Palestinian territories. Batya Ungar-sargon, The New York Review of Books, "A Palestinian in Israeli Military Court: Issa Amro, the Judge, & Me," 17 June 2019 Around the globe the Jetta will be a lot of somebodies’ first proper, grown-up automobile—a chapter-of-life choice, a fork in the road. Dan Neil, WSJ, "2019 Volkswagen Jetta: Return of the Great Cheap Car," 10 Aug. 2018 Additionally, families can opt for grander accommodations than the lodge proper by renting from Spruce Peaks’ pool of private residences and mountain cabins. Paul Rubio, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Places to Go This Winter," 1 Dec. 2017 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

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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Time Traveler for proper

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for proper

Last Updated

29 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Proper.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for proper


How to pronounce proper (audio)

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)

chiefly British, informal : in a complete way


prop·​er | \ ˈprä-pər How to pronounce proper (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on proper

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for proper

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with proper

Spanish Central: Translation of proper

Nglish: Translation of proper for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of proper for Arabic Speakers

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