1. Refined or polite, often in an affected way: "Who better to domesticate him than the most genteel woman in the world? What better to housebreak him than ... a delicate actress with beautiful diction for his wife?" (Philip Roth). See Synonyms at polite.
2. Typical or characteristic of the upper class: "His family background was somewhat less genteel than his Brahmin name and Harvard pedigree might suggest" (Scot French).
3. Elegantly stylish or fashionable: genteel manners and appearance.
[French gentil, from Old French; see GENTLE.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.