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[jen-teel] /dʒɛnˈtil/
belonging or suited to polite society.
well-bred or refined; polite; elegant; stylish.
affectedly or pretentiously polite, delicate, etc.
Origin of genteel
1590-1600; < French gentil; see gentle
Related forms
genteelly, adverb
genteelness, noun
pseudogenteel, adjective
quasi-genteel, adjective
quasi-genteelly, adverb
ungenteel, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for genteel
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Every negro type was there, from the genteel butler to the clodhopper from the cotton and rice fields.

    The Clansman Thomas Dixon
  • Their conversation, though no doubt as genteel as before, was all of broken hearts.

  • The rider was a gay young man, elegant and genteel in manners.

    The Oriental Story Book Wilhelm Hauff
  • There are many boys of genteel family, who would have been glad of the chance.

    Paul Prescott's Charge Horatio Alger
  • With her, a smooth face stands for good sense, and a genteel figure for every virtue.

    She Stoops to Conquer Oliver Goldsmith
British Dictionary definitions for genteel


affectedly proper or refined; excessively polite
respectable, polite, and well-bred: a genteel old lady
appropriate to polite or fashionable society: genteel behaviour
Derived Forms
genteelly, adverb
genteelness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from French gentil well-born; see gentle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for genteel

1590s, from Middle French gentil "stylish, fashionable, elegant; nice, graceful, pleasing," from Old French gentil "high-born, noble" (11c.); a reborrowing of the French word that had early come into English as gentle (q.v.), with French pronunciation and stress preserved to emphasize the distinction. Cf. also jaunty; gentile. OED 2nd ed. reports genteel "is now used, except by the ignorant, only in mockery" (a development it dates from the 1840s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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