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 ©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.