po·​lite pə-ˈlīt How to pronounce polite (audio)
politer; politest
: of, relating to, or having the characteristics of advanced culture
: marked by refined cultural interests and pursuits especially in arts and belles lettres
: showing or characterized by correct social usage
: marked by an appearance of consideration, tact, deference, or courtesy
: marked by a lack of roughness or crudities
polite literature
politely adverb
politeness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for polite

civil, polite, courteous, gallant, chivalrous mean observant of the forms required by good breeding.

civil often suggests little more than the avoidance of overt rudeness.

owed the questioner a civil reply

polite commonly implies polish of speech and manners and sometimes suggests an absence of cordiality.

if you can't be pleasant, at least be polite

courteous implies more actively considerate or dignified politeness.

clerks who were unfailingly courteous to customers

gallant and chivalrous imply courteous attentiveness especially to women.

gallant suggests spirited and dashing behavior and ornate expressions of courtesy.

a gallant suitor of the old school

chivalrous suggests high-minded and self-sacrificing behavior.

a chivalrous display of duty

Example Sentences

It was polite of him to hold the door for them. Please be polite to the guests. It isn't polite to interrupt people when they're talking. She received some polite applause despite the mistakes in her performance.
Recent Examples on the Web Though initially obsequious, Patoff immobilizes his targets with polite menace, which Waltz maintains with atypical restraint. Kristen Baldwin, EW.com, 23 Feb. 2023 What would be a polite, respectful thing to say to my mother? Jacobina Martin, Washington Post, 18 Feb. 2023 What would be a polite, respectful thing to say to my mother? Nicholas Ivor Martin And Jacobina Martin, oregonlive, 18 Feb. 2023 Use polite, courteous language when assigning projects or discussing your team's performance. Janine Schindler, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2023 One is the polite gentleman with a constant smile on his face. Ryan Black, The Courier-Journal, 11 Feb. 2023 And yet torment ensued, as her Taco Bell co-workers sunk their teeth into her earnest and overly polite demeanor. ELLE, 6 Feb. 2023 The creepiness is all the more insistent for being so rueful and polite. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 3 Feb. 2023 And unlike some of her grim, deadpan successors, Loring’s Wednesday is a polite, happy little girl who just happens to like decapitating her dolls. Los Angeles Times, 3 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English (Scots) polit, Latin politus, from past participle of polire

First Known Use

circa 1500, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of polite was circa 1500

Dictionary Entries Near polite

Cite this Entry

“Polite.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polite. Accessed 24 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


po·​lite pə-ˈlīt How to pronounce polite (audio)
politer; politest
: showing good taste or training : refined
polite society
polite forms of address
: showing consideration and courtesy : courteous
politely adverb
politeness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on polite

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