noun pro·pri·e·ty \ prə-ˈprī-ə-tē \
|Updated on: 16 Aug 2018

Definition of propriety

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

Examples of propriety in a Sentence

  1. If Madison felt the same annoyance with the dissenters, his prim sense of political propriety forbade him from stooping to personal attacks. —Jack N. RakoveOriginal Meanings … 1996
  2. His austere and basically humble personality imposes a curious damp propriety upon his memorial. —John UpdikeNew Yorker1 July 1991
  3. In contemporary America the appearance of prosperity is all too often taken as a sign of propriety. —Jack BeattyAtlanticDecember 1989
  4. She conducted herself with propriety.

  5. They debated the propriety of the punishment that he was given.

  6. When attending a wedding, there are certain proprieties that must be observed.

Recent Examples of propriety from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of propriety

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

PROPRIETY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of propriety for English Language Learners

  • : behavior that is accepted as socially or morally correct and proper

  • : the state or quality of being correct and proper

  • proprieties : rules of correct social behavior

PROPRIETY Defined for Kids


noun pro·pri·ety \ prə-ˈprī-ə-tē \

Definition of propriety for Students

plural proprieties
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

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