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 formsgen·teel·ly, adverbgen·teel·ness, nounpseu·do·gen·teel, adjectivequa·si-gen·teel, adjectivequa·si-gen·teel·ly, adverbun·gen·teel, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for genteel

Contemporary Examples of genteel

Historical Examples of genteel

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

  • He chose the most genteel, however; he became a wine merchant.

  • It was the host's profound misfortune to have been overcome by that too genteel lady.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • Every one seemed to think it wouldn't be genteel to eat after the disaster.

    One Of Them

    Charles James Lever

  • There are many boys of genteel family, who would have been glad of the chance.

British Dictionary definitions for genteel



affectedly proper or refined; excessively polite
respectable, polite, and well-breda genteel old lady
appropriate to polite or fashionable societygenteel behaviour
Derived Formsgenteelly, adverbgenteelness, noun

Word Origin for genteel

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

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