Part of speech: adjective
Origin: French, 16th century
Having a stylish or upper-class quality
Elegant or refined
Excessively polite to the point of being pretentious
Examples of Genteel in a sentence
"The genteel furnishings in her room stood out from the otherwise broken-down nature of the house."
"Genteel matters don't concern those of us who have to focus solely on survival."
Popularity Over Time
If genteel looks familiar, that’s because it shares roots with many words related to people and aristocracy. In fact, it can also mean “of or relating to the gentry” — another word for the upper class.
Did you Know?
Genteel didn't always associate specifically with the higher class. Its Latin root refers only to being part of a specific clan or tribe of people. As it moved through French, it began to take on its aristocratic meanings. In English, sometime during the 19th century, it developed its somewhat negative association with the wealthy and well-mannered.