pro·​pri·​e·​ty | \ prə-ˈprī-ə-tē How to pronounce propriety (audio) \
plural proprieties

Definition of propriety

1 : the quality or state of being proper or suitable : appropriateness
2a : conformity to what is socially acceptable in conduct or speech
b proprieties plural : the customs and manners of polite society
c : fear of offending against conventional rules of behavior especially between the sexes
3 obsolete : true nature
4 obsolete : a special characteristic : peculiarity

Synonyms & Antonyms for propriety



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did you know?

In an earlier era, when social manners were far more elaborate than they are today, propriety and impropriety were words in constant use. Today we're more likely to use them in other contexts. We may talk about the propriety of government officials' dealings with private citizens, the propriety of the relationship between a lawyer and a judge, or the impropriety of speaking out of turn in a meeting that follows Robert's rules of order. Relations between men and women still present questions of propriety, but today it's often in the workplace rather than in social settings. Wherever rules, principles, and standard procedures have been clearly stated, propriety can become an issue. Something improper usually isn't actually illegal, but it makes people uncomfortable by giving the impression that something isn't quite right.

Examples of propriety in a Sentence

If Madison felt the same annoyance with the dissenters, his prim sense of political propriety forbade him from stooping to personal attacks. — Jack N. Rakove, Original Meanings … , 1996 His austere and basically humble personality imposes a curious damp propriety upon his memorial. — John Updike, New Yorker, 1 July 1991 In contemporary America the appearance of prosperity is all too often taken as a sign of propriety. — Jack Beatty, Atlantic, December 1989 She conducted herself with propriety. They debated the propriety of the punishment that he was given. When attending a wedding, there are certain proprieties that must be observed.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The keyboard can connect through both Bluetooth and Logitech’s propriety Lightspeed technology, which should help reduce the latency that Bluetooth sometimes introduces. Maren Estrada, BGR, 28 Aug. 2021 The raw data from the reports will not be made public for propriety reasons, but summary data will be available. Geneva Sands, CNN, 5 Aug. 2021 Bourgeois propriety often seems to prefer a clear distinction between grief and jubilation. New York Times, 15 Sep. 2021 But opinions are divided over the propriety of Noem's actions as many wait for more information to emerge about what happened in the meeting. Maeve Reston, CNN, 7 Oct. 2021 But with his editor in mind, the reporter turned it down out of deference to journalistic propriety., 22 Sep. 2021 His life had been characterized mainly by juvenile pranks, a complete lack of interest in studying, a disdain for propriety in his romantic life, and a profligate use of his father’s wealth. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 Sep. 2021 The fact that men of a certain age had supposedly learned something about propriety and power dynamics didn’t stop Cuomo from allegedly kissing his executive assistant on the lips. Washington Post, 14 Aug. 2021 The tragedy of Leung’s character is his inability to unwind, to let go of the fears and an idiotic sense of propriety that keep him from giving into love. Frankie Huang, Vulture, 2 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'propriety.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of propriety

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for propriety

Middle English propriete, from Anglo-French proprieté, propreté property, quality of a person or thing — more at property

Learn More About propriety

Time Traveler for propriety

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near propriety




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for propriety

Last Updated

26 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Propriety.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for propriety



English Language Learners Definition of propriety

: behavior that is accepted as socially or morally correct and proper
: the state or quality of being correct and proper
: rules of correct social behavior


pro·​pri·​ety | \ prə-ˈprī-ə-tē How to pronounce propriety (audio) \
plural proprieties

Kids Definition of propriety

1 : correctness in manners or behavior He went beyond the bounds of propriety.
2 : the quality or state of being proper
3 proprieties plural : the rules of correct behavior the proprieties of weddings

More from Merriam-Webster on propriety

Nglish: Translation of propriety for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of propriety for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!