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From court (demonstration of such respect as is traditionally given at court; attention directed to a person in power; behaviour designed to gain favour; politeness of manner; civility towards someone) +‎ -ship (suffix forming nouns indicating a property or state of being).[1]



courtship (countable and uncountable, plural courtships)

  1. (countable, uncountable) The act of paying court, that is, demonstrating such politeness and respect as is traditionally given at a court (a formal assembly of a sovereign's retinue).
    1. (obsolete) The ceremonial performance of acts of courtesy to a dignitary, etc.
    2. The act of wooing a person to enter into a romantic relationship or marriage; hence, the period during which a couple fall in love before their marriage.
      Synonyms: see Thesaurus:courtship
    3. (by extension) The behaviour exhibited by an animal to attract a mate.
      • 1791, Oliver Goldsmith, “Of the Bittern or Mire-drum”, in An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature. [], new edition, volume VI, London: [] F[rancis] Wingrave, successor to Mr. [John] Nourse, [], →OCLC, part V (Of Birds of the Crane Kind), page 2:
        Theſe bellowing exploſions [of the bittern] are chiefly heard from the beginning of ſpring to the end of autumn; and, however awful they may ſeem to us, are the calls to courtſhip, or of connubial felicity.
    4. (figuratively) The act of trying to solicit a favour or support from someone.
      • 1816 February 13, [Lord Byron], “The Siege of Corinth”, in The Siege of Corinth. A Poem. Parisina. A Poem, London: [] [T[homas] Davison] for John Murray, [], →OCLC, stanza XIII, page 20, lines 287–290:
        His head grows fevered, and his pulse / The quick successive throbs convulse; / In vain from side to side he throws / His form, in courtship of repose; [...]
  2. (countable, uncountable, obsolete) Elegance or propriety of manners fitting for a court; courtliness; (by extension) courteous or polite behaviour; courtesy.
  3. (uncountable, obsolete) The pursuit of being a courtier, such as exercising diplomacy, finesse, etc.; also, the artifices and intrigues of a court; courtcraft.
    • 1592, Thomas Nash[e], Pierce Penilesse His Supplication to the Deuill. [], London: [] [John Charlewood for] Richard Ihones, [], →OCLC; republished as J[ohn] Payne Collier, editor, Pierce Penniless’s Supplication to the Devil. [], London: [] [Frederic Shoberl, Jun.] for the Shakespeare Society, 1842, →OCLC, page 25:
      The Frenchman (not altered from his owne nature) is wholly compact of deceivable courtship, and (for the most part) loues none but himselfe and his pleasure: yet though he be the most Grand Signeur of them all, he will say, A vostre service et commandemente monsieur [at your service and command, monsieur], to the meanest vassaile he meetes.

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  1. ^ courtship, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1893; courtship, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

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