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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for propriety



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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The past few years have proved that there is an enormous amount the Republican Party is willing to absorb; cryptic clocks, coded messages, and the sating of Democratic appetites on child-flesh seem as yet just out of the bounds of propriety. Talia Lavin, The New Republic, "QAnon, Blood Libel, and the Satanic Panic," 29 Sep. 2020 Since Trump began his presidential run, lobbyists, foreign governments and politicians have lavished significant sums of money on his properties, a spending spree that raised questions about its propriety and legality. Anchorage Daily News, "5 takeaways from NY Times report on Trump’s tax returns," 28 Sep. 2020 These chat rooms — music, movie, sports, darts and other game rooms — leave critics wondering about propriety. Monica Tapiarené By Ken Hogarty,, "Reader fiction: Throughline inspires short fiction by Bay Area residents," 6 Sep. 2020 But these enemies of propriety had a certain usefulness, much like short sellers in today’s financial markets. Daniel Akst, WSJ, "‘Cynicism’ and ‘The Function of Cynicism at the Present Time’ Review: When Nothing Is Good Enough," 2 Sep. 2020 There is no reason to think a sudden lightning strike of propriety would keep Trump from using the power of office for his personal protection. Harry Litman Los Angeles Times (tns), Star Tribune, "New York's investigations may be the best bet for holding Trump accountable," 31 Aug. 2020 But for those of us accustomed to the rules of women's fashion, enduring discomfort for the sake of propriety is nothing new. Zoe Fenson, TheWeek, "What America's mask debate reveals about privilege," 31 Aug. 2020 Some Washburn students have questioned the propriety of the statutes but the decision to remove them from campus was not in response to a protest or request from students, Early said. Fox News, "Washburn University dismantles Jefferson, Franklin statues after donor flags potential 'embarrassment'," 31 Aug. 2020 Whatever the propriety of using the White House in this fashion, each act was intended to smooth over Trump’s rougher edges. W. James Antle Iii, Washington Examiner, "GOP convention casts Trump as a caring pugilist who fights for ordinary people," 28 Aug. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for propriety

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for propriety

Last Updated

8 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Propriety.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for propriety


How to pronounce propriety (audio)

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

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