Monday, June 07, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: genteel \jen-TEEL\

1 a : having an aristocratic quality or flavor : stylish b : elegant or graceful in manner, appearance, or shape
2 : maintaining the appearance of superior social status

In Roman times, the Latin noun "gens" was used to refer to a clan, a group of related people. Its plural "gentes" was used to designate all the people of the world, particularly non-Romans. An adjective form, "gentilis," applied to both senses. Over time, the adjective was borrowed and passed through several languages. It came into Old French as "gentil," a word that then meant "high-born" (in modern French it means "nice"); that term was carried over into Anglo-French, where English speakers found and borrowed it in the 16th century. Nowadays it is used to describe people or things that are of high social status or that simply give the appearance of being so.

Previous E.T.

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