[kawrt-lee, kohrt-]

adjective, court·li·er, court·li·est.

polite, refined, or elegant: courtly manners.
flattering; obsequious.
noting, pertaining to, or suitable for the court of a sovereign.


in a courtly manner; politely or flatteringly.

Origin of courtly

late Middle English word dating back to 1400–50; see origin at court, -ly
Related formscourt·li·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for courtly

Contemporary Examples of courtly

Historical Examples of courtly

  • A queen in the magnificence of her courtly surroundings could not have conquered him so quickly.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • Casanova signified his refusal with an exaggerated but courtly gesture.

    Casanova's Homecoming

    Arthur Schnitzler

  • Mr Dorrit welcomed the visitor with the highest urbanity, and most courtly manners.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • Monseigneur received him in a courtly manner, but they did not shake hands.

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

  • Mrs Varden called up quite a courtly air, and became seated.

    Barnaby Rudge

    Charles Dickens

British Dictionary definitions for courtly


adjective -lier or -liest

of or suitable for a royal court
refined in manner
Derived Formscourtliness, noun
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

Word Origin and History for courtly

mid-15c., "having manners befitting a court," from court (n.) + -ly (1). Meaning "pertaining to the court" is from late 15c. Courtly love "highly conventionalized medieval chivalric love" (amour courtois) is attested from 1896.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper