1 a : of or relating to the gentry or upper class
b : elegant or graceful in manner, appearance, or shape
c : free from vulgarity or rudeness : polite
2 : marked by false delicacy, prudery, or affectation
Did You Know?
In Roman times, the Latin noun gens was used to refer to a clan, a group of related people. Its plural gentes was used to designate all the people of the world, particularly non-Romans. An adjective form, gentilis, applied to both senses. Over time, the adjective was borrowed and passed through several languages. It came into Old French as gentil, a word that then meant "high-born" (in modern French it means "nice"); that term was carried over into Anglo-French, where English speakers found and borrowed it in the early 17th century.
"The Hamptons, once so genteel, with their sepulchral light and estates hidden behind neatly groomed hedges, have managed to become a nexus of social life, … where openings and charity galas and club nights fill the summer calendar." — Marisa Meltzer, Town & Country, 1 Aug. 2016
"At this preternaturally elegant new French restaurant …, the waitstaff keeps things lively with cheeky repartee. On arrival one late-summer evening, a man, having located his party, said to the host, 'I'm with them,' and was met with a genteel retort: 'As you should be.'" — Shauna Lyon, The New Yorker, 26 Sept. 2016
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Unscramble the letters to create a synonym of genteel meaning "polite": EUNARB.VIEW THE ANSWER
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