Definitions

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

  • adj. Marked by or showing consideration for others, tact, and observance of accepted social usage.
  • adj. Refined; elegant: polite society.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Well-mannered, civilized.
  • adj. Smooth, polished, burnished.
  • v. To polish; to refine; to render polite.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Smooth; polished.
  • adj. Smooth and refined in behavior or manners; well bred; courteous; complaisant; obliging; civil.
  • adj. Characterized by refinement, or a high degree of finish.
  • transitive v. To polish; to refine; to render polite.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Polished; smooth; lustrous; bright.
  • Polished, refined, or elegant in speech, manner, or behavior; well-bred; courteous; complaisant; obliging: said of persons or their speech or behavior, etc.: as, polite society; he was very polite.
  • Polished or refined in style, or employing such a style: now rarely applied to persons: as, polite learning; polite literature (that is, belleslettres).
  • Synonyms Civil, Polite, Courteous, Urbane, Complaisant, gracious, affable, courtly, gentlemanly, ladylike. Civil, literally, applies to one who fulfils the duty of a citizen; it may mean simply not rude, or observant of the external courtesies of intercourse, or quick to do and say gratifying and complimentary things. Polite applies to one who shows a polished civility, who has a higher training in ease and gracefulness of manners; politeness is a deeper, more comprehensive, more delicate, and perhaps more genuine thing than civility. Polite, though much abused, is becoming the standard word for the bearing of a refined and kind person toward others. Courteous, literally, expresses that style of politeness which belongs to courts: a courteous man is one who is gracefully respectful in his address and manner—one who exhibits a union of dignified complaisance and kindness. The word applies to all sincere kindness and attention. Urbane, literally city-like, expresses a sort of politeness which is not only sincere and kind, but peculiarly suave and agreeable. Complaisant applies to one who pleases by being pleased, or obliges and is polite by yielding personal preferences; it may represent mere fawning, but generally does not. See genteel.
  • [⟨ L. politus, pp. of polire, polish: see polish, verb] To polish; refine.

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

  • adj. showing regard for others in manners, speech, behavior, etc.
  • adj. marked by refinement in taste and manners
  • adj. not rude; marked by satisfactory (or especially minimal) adherence to social usages and sufficient but not noteworthy consideration for others

Etymologies

Middle English polit, polished, from Latin polītus, past participle of polīre, to polish; see polish.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin politus ("polished"), past participle of polire ("to polish"); see polish. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Raul bowed slightly over her hand, his expression polite, but showing no recognition.

    The Glory Game

  • The language is everywhere that of men of honour, but their actions are those of knaves—a proof that he was perfectly well acquainted with human nature, and frequented what we call polite company.

    Letter XIX-On Comedy

  • "That's not what I call polite," said she, "but he's awful flustered, and I don't mind."

    The Captain's Toll-Gate

  • They refused what they described as his "polite request" to stop kissing.

    The Guardian World News

  • The language is everywhere that of men of honour, but their actions are those of knaves -- a proof that he was perfectly well acquainted with human nature, and frequented what we call polite company.

    Letters on England

  • Personally, when I think of Mexicans "polite" is not one of the first words that comes to mind.

    Dialect and Language discussion - pulled from another thread . . .

  • Again, as Matthew Parris argued on Saturday, ‘lie’ is not a word polite people use.

    Cameron is taking the fight to Brown

  • Mac turned around to the bar and swept his eyes over it, his expression polite and pointed.

    Dead Beat

  • "Yao" is "foreigner", and not at all polite from a Chinese to a white man.

    Flashman and the Dragon

  • His father, taking the advice of friends, placed young Alexander under the tutorship of a clergyman in Charleston, where the lad learned Latin and Greek, and in that way became well grounded in what our dear old grandfathers called polite literature.

    Stories Of Georgia

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