1. Characterized by appropriateness or suitability; fitting: the proper knife for cutting bread; not a proper moment for a joke.
2. Called for by rules or conventions; correct: the proper form for a business letter.
3. Strictly following rules or conventions, especially in social behavior; seemly: a proper lady; a proper gentleman.
a. Belonging to one; own: restored to his proper shape by the magician.
b. Characteristically belonging to the being or thing in question; peculiar: an optical effect proper to fluids.
5. Being within the strictly limited sense, as of a term designating something: the town proper, excluding the suburbs.
6. Ecclesiastical For use in the liturgy of a particular feast or season of the year.
7. Mathematics Of or relating to a subset of a given set when the set has at least one element not in the subset.
8. Worthy of the name; true: wanted a proper dinner, not just a snack.
9. Out-and-out; thorough: a proper whipping.
Thoroughly: beat the eggs good and proper.
n. also Proper
The portion of the liturgy that varies according to the particular feast or season of the year.
[Middle English propre, from Old French, from Latin proprius; see per1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 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.