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From Late Middle English propriete (ownership), borrowed from Anglo-Norman propreté, Middle French proprieté, from Latin proprietās. By surface analysis, proper +‎ -ity. Doublet of property.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /pɹəˈpɹaɪəti/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪɪti


propriety (countable and uncountable, plural proprieties)

  1. (obsolete) The particular character or essence of someone or something; individuality. [15th–20th c.]
  2. (obsolete) A characteristic; an attribute. [15th–20th c.]
  3. (now rare) A piece of land owned by someone; someone's property. [from 16th c.]
  4. (obsolete) More generally, something owned by someone; a possession. [16th–19th c.]
    • 1723, Charles Walker, Memoirs of the Life of Sally Salisbury:
      I was fearful of giving You a very sensible Disgust, in making You seem the Propriety of one Man, when You know Yourself ordained for the Comfort and Refreshment of Multitudes.
  5. The fact of possessing something; ownership. [from 16th c.]
  6. (now rare) Correct language or pronunciation. [from 17th c.]
    • 1791, John Walker, “Construe”, in A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary [] [1], London: Sold by G. G. J. and J. Robinſon, Paternoſter Row; and T. Cadell, in the Strand, OCLC 37805775, page 162:
      Thoſe who ought to be the guardians of propriety are often the perverters of it. Hence Accidence for Accidents, Prepoſtor for Prepoſitor and Conſtur for Conſtrue []
  7. Suitability, fitness; the quality of being appropriate. [from 18th c.]
  8. (often in the plural) Correctness in behaviour and morals; good manners, seemliness. [from 19th c.]
    • 1811, [Jane Austen], “Chapter 12”, in Sense and Sensibility [], volume (please specify |volume=I to III), London: [] C[harles] Roworth, [], and published by T[homas] Egerton, [], OCLC 20599507:
      Elinor then ventured to doubt the propriety of her receiving such a present from a man so little, or at least so lately known to her.
    • 1859 December 13, Charles Dickens, “The Ghost in Master B’s Room”, in Charles Dickens, editor, The Haunted House. The Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round [], volume II, London: [] C. Whiting, [], OCLC 781591950, page 29, column 2:
      Miss Griffin was a model of propriety, and I am at a loss to imagine what the feelings of the virtuous woman would have been, if she had known, when she paraded us down the Hampstead Road two and two, that she was walking with a stately step at the head of Polygamy and Mahomedanism.
    • 2012 May 27, Nathan Rabin, “TV: Review: THE SIMPSONS (CLASSIC): “New Kid On The Block” (season 4, episode 8; originally aired 11/12/1992)”, in The Onion AV Club[2]:
      The neighbor is eventually able to sell her home despite Homer’s pants-less affronts to propriety and decency and Bart falls deeply and instantly for one of its new inhabitants, a tough but charming and funny tomboy girl named Laura (voiced by Sara Gilbert) with just the right combination of toughness and sweetness, granite and honey.

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