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 Louis didn’t concern himself with her emotional attachments so long as public proprieties were more or less observed. Christopher Tayler, Harper's magazine, "New Books," 19 Aug. 2019 For one long sequence, Hustlers loses its propriety and leers like the wolf in Looney Tunes. Ross Douthat, National Review, "Jennifer Lopez Delivers a Career-High Performance in Hustlers," 26 Sep. 2019 For instance, tea time involves its own rules of propriety, like how to hold a tea cup. Ashley Boucher,, "Lewis Hamilton Reveals the Queen Once Had to Give Him a Talking to About His Table Manners," 19 Sep. 2019 The presence of Bruce as a character (played in magnetic, Emmy-winning style by Luke Kirby) seemed to suggest that Midge’s comedy might skirt the edges of propriety. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," 7 Dec. 2019 That context won't be available to either the humans or the machines assessing its propriety. Eric Goldman And Jess Miers, Ars Technica, "Why can’t Internet companies stop awful content?," 27 Nov. 2019 Some have questioned the propriety of the crowd’s reaction to an appearance from a sitting president. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Donald Trump Got Booed and Heckled With “Lock Him Up!” Chants at the World Series," 28 Oct. 2019 Absolutely everything was done with full propriety and in accordance with proper procedures., "On Friday, a monitor at London’s City Hall referred Johnson to a police watchdog for a possible investigation into the case, saying that the accusations, if true, could amount to misconduct in public office.," 30 Sep. 2019 But government victims must also grapple with the dubious propriety — and dubious legality — of rewarding crime with taxpayers’ money. Alan Blinder And Nicole Perlroth, New York Times, "Hard Choice for Cities Under Cyberattack: Whether to Pay Ransom," 29 Mar. 2018

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

15 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Propriety.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 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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