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 Those temperatures seem cold, but can be dealt with given proper gear. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, "Wanted: A boot that will keep you warm the way old bunny boots did," 11 Jan. 2020 After denying the dumping to the manager, the resident admitted their transgression to police, apologized and retrieved the garbage for proper disposal. cleveland, "Resident admits to illegally tossing boxes into restaurant dumpster: Rocky River Police Blotter," 10 Jan. 2020 Abbott, who in 2015 sought to block Syrians from coming to Texas after a terrorist attack in Paris, France, argued at the time that the federal government did not have adequate information to conduct proper security checks. Robert T. Garrett, Dallas News, "Texas’ inn for refugees is full, Gov. Greg Abbott says, declining to admit any more," 10 Jan. 2020 Kitchen manager couldn’t answer questions about proper heating and cooling. oregonlive, "These 21 Oregon grocery stores did the worst on state health inspections," 10 Jan. 2020 Bahr suggests doing this upper-body resistance-band workout two times a week, alternating it with lower-body work, to ensure proper recovery and maintain balance throughout your body. Amy Marturana Winderl, SELF, "The 20-Minute Resistance-Band Workout for Your Arms, Shoulders, and Back," 9 Jan. 2020 That alone is a reason for proper communication about testing results, instead of trying to withhold studies that taxpayers are funding. Christa Westerberg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bill in Wisconsin Legislature requires prompt notification when groundwater is polluted," 9 Jan. 2020 The trees are stripped of branches with a chainsaw and dried for about six months before being sanded and turned into a proper cane shape. Andrea Billups,, "Turning Christmas Trees Into Free Canes Helped Bring Army Vet 'Back from the Brink of Suicide'," 9 Jan. 2020 Applicants are asked to bring proof of citizenship and proper identification. al, "Flora-Bama announces job fairs, seeking to hire 200," 8 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 Austrian champions Salzburg are in the Champions League proper for the first time since being reformed as their current name., "Champions League 2019/20: All 32 Team's Confirmed Squads," 4 Sep. 2019 Giving its name to a district, the forest proper is spread over roughly 16 deciduous miles, beginning on the edge of London’s Forest Gate. Simon Ingram, National Geographic, "Visit the world’s first National Park City," 26 July 2019 However, according to Danny, All Sports proper has become the most prestigious run in the community in recent years. Cian Maher, The Verge, "The strange and surprisingly intense world of Wii Sports speedrunners," 5 Aug. 2019 Anyway, Oculus Quest duplicates the more rigid straps of the Rift proper, which is a huge improvement over Go’s flimsy elastic. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "The $399 Oculus Quest is a premium VR headset with no wires—and no PC required," 26 Sep. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb 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 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

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

15 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Proper.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 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

Comments on proper

What made you want to look up proper? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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