adj. po·lit·er, po·lit·est
1. Marked by or showing consideration for others and observance of accepted social usage.
2. Refined; elegant: polite society.
[Middle English polit, polished, from Latin polītus, past participle of polīre, to polish; see POLISH.]
Synonyms: polite, mannerly, civil, courteous, genteel
These adjectives mean mindful of, conforming to, or marked by good manners. Polite and mannerly imply consideration for others and the adherence to conventional social standards of good behavior: "She was so polite and unwilling to offend that she wouldn't always make her feelings and intentions clear" (Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson). "Just the one young man came out, very mannerly, and helped first her then me down from the car" (Alice Munro).
Civil often suggests the barest observance of accepted social usages, as in the avoidance of rudeness: "Mr. Bingley was unaffectedly civil in his answer, and forced his younger sister to be civil also, and say what the occasion required" (Jane Austen).
Courteous implies courtliness and dignity: "Even around his parents ... he's unfailingly courteous and even-tempered, letting slide their mild attempts to run his life" (Paul Solotaroff).
Genteel, which originally meant well-bred, now usually suggests excessive and affected refinement associated with the upper classes: "In a world without credit bureaus, background checks, or official identification, properly genteel attire, speech, and behavior determined where a person could go, whom he could see, and how he was judged in every area" (Jeffrey L. Pasley).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.