Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The quality of being well-mannered; refinement.
  • n. The condition of being born to the gentry.
  • n. Persons of high social standing considered as a group.
  • n. An attempt to convey or maintain the appearance of refinement and elegance.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The state of being elegant, genteel, having good breeding, or being socially superior.
  • n. The upper classes, the gentry.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Good extraction; dignity of birth.
  • n. The quality or qualities appropriate to those who are well born, as self-respect, dignity, courage, courtesy, politeness of manner, a graceful and easy mien and behavior, etc.; good breeding.
  • n. The class in society who are, or are expected to be, genteel; the gentry.
  • n. Paganism; heathenism.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The quality or state of belonging to a certain gens, clan, or family; gentile relationship or stock.
  • n. Noble or gentle birth.
  • n. People of good birth; gentry.
  • n. Gentile character; paganism; heathenism.
  • n. The quality or state of being genteel; condition, appearance, or manner characteristic of polite society; genteel behavior; fashionableness; stylishness.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. elegance by virtue of fineness of manner and expression

Etymologies

Middle English gentilete, nobility of birth, from Old French, from Latin gentīlitās, from gentīlis, of the same clan; see gentle.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • I said that my country-folk in general had a great many admirable qualities, but at the same time a great many foibles, foremost amongst which last was a crazy admiration for what they called gentility, which made them sycophantic to their superiors in station, and extremely insolent to those whom they considered below them.

    Wild Wales : Its People, Language and Scenery

  • The generality of his countrymen are far more careful not to transgress the customs of what they call gentility, than to violate the laws of honour or morality.

    Grammar.

  • The generality of his countrymen are far more careful not to transgress the customs of what they call gentility than to violate the laws of honour or morality.

    The Romany Rye A Sequel to 'Lavengro'

  • As Maryjean Wall relates in "How Kentucky Became Southern," the state's familiar gentility is largely invented — and relatively recently at that.

    Behind the Bluegrass

  • I'm the sort of person who publishes my opinion on the internet ... you can't expect much in the way of gentility from the likes of me.

    The "I Told You So!"

  • I say "gentility" -- but that is not exactly the word; for there is not the remotest trace of snobbishness in Henry James.

    Suspended Judgments Essays on Books and Sensations

  • It is because the indefinable, but to those who can perceive it unmistakable, _aura_ of "gentility" -- in the true and not the debased sense -- is, at best, questionably present.

    A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2 To the Close of the 19th Century

  • Social intercourse disseminated these ideas among those to whom they were novel; where, previously, the highest motive to improvement had been a desire for convenience, the idea of gentility began to claim an influence; and some of the more moderate embellishments of life assumed the place of the mere necessaries.

    Western Characters or Types of Border Life in the Western States

  • To belong to this class when you were at the £400 a year level was a queer business, for it meant that your gentility was almost purely theoretical.

    The Road to Wigan Pier

  • But our gentility is a little self-conscious, for we live on the very frontier of a region, darker in complexion, which is far from scrupulous in deportment.

    Pipefuls

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