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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
  • In the genteel world of bridge, disputes are usually handled quietly and rarely involve issues of national policy.
  • Part of the reason that genteel good manners prevailed is that everyone knew each other already.
  • If conditions changed-if children stayed home longer or genteel spinsters decided to live together-so would housing requirements.
  • Beneath his genteel demeanor beats the heart of a streetwise original.
  • But inside, the apartment is genteel and highly recognizable to me.
  • Ruby share a mission to uncover violent psychic depths that genteel idealism covers up.
  • Recently the genteel academic threw himself into another conflict.
  • It's called less pleasant things in less genteel circles.
  • Those are fighting words, in the ordinarily genteel world of defense contracting.
  • Genealogy relies on the genteel fiction that all children are the product of their legal parents.
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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