Although the adjective genteel means high-class and refined, it is often used today in a somewhat mocking tone, as though good manners and elegance are passé. Still, it would be nice if more people were a little more genteel.

The word genteel comes from the Old French word gentil, "high-born, noble." We can see the similarity to the word gentle, as in gentleman and gentlewoman. The word is especially powerful in describing Chaucer's Knight in the Canterbury Tales as "a verray, parfit gentil knyght" — "a true, perfect, noble knight," dignified, patrician, and as genteel as they come. Today, it describes someone elegant, fashionable, and well-bred. Picture someone in riding jodhpurs reading "Town and Country" while astride a magnificent show horse.

Definitions of genteel

adj marked by refinement in taste and manners

“a genteel old lady”
civilised, civilized, cultivated, cultured, polite
(used of persons and their behavior) cultivated and genteel

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