any man of good, courteous conduct

Gentlemen initially denoted well-educated men of good family and distinction. In this sense, the word equates with the French gentilhomme ("nobleman"), which latter term was, in Great Britain, long confined to the peerage. The word gentry derives from the old term Adel, but without the strict technical requirements of those traditions, such as quarters of nobility. To a degree, gentleman signified a man with an income derived from property, a legacy or some other source, and was thus independently wealthy and did not need to work. The term was particularly used of those who could not claim nobility or even the rank of esquire. Widening further, it became a politeness for all men, as in the phrase Ladies and Gentlemen. In modern speech, the term is usually democratised so as to include any man of good, courteous conduct, or even to all men (as in indications of gender-separated facilities, or as a sign of the speaker's own courtesy when addressing others).

Richard Brathwait's The Complete English Gentleman (1630), showing the exemplary qualities of a gentleman

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  • The taste of beauty, and the relish of what is decent, just and amiable, perfects the character of the gentleman and the philosopher. And the study of such a taste or relish will, as we suppose, be ever the great employment and concern of him who covets as well to be wise and good, as agreeable and polite.


  • Rousseauist and Baconian, though often superficially at odds with one another, have co-operated in undermining, not merely religious tradition, but another tradition which in the Occident goes back finally, not to Judea, but to ancient Greece. This older tradition may be defined as humanistic. The goal of the humanist is poised and proportionate living. This he hopes to accomplish by observing the law of measure. ... Decorum is supreme for the humanist even as humility takes precedence over all other virtues in the eyes of the Christian. Traditionally the idea of decorum has been associated, often with a considerable admixture of mere formalism, with the idea of the gentleman.
    • Irving Babbitt, "What I Believe" (1930), Irving Babbitt: Representative Writings (1981), pp. 6-7
  • Nothing is more certain, than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connected with manners and with civilization, have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles; and were indeed the result of both combined; I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion.
  • Tho' modest, on his unembarrass'd brow
    Nature had written—"Gentleman."


  • I was ne'er so thrummed since I was a gentleman.
  • The best of men
    That e'er wore earth about him was a sufferer;
    A soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit,
    The first true gentleman that ever breathed.
  • To be a gentleman does not depend upon the tailor or the toilet. Good clothes are not good habits. A gentleman is just a gentle-man,—no more, no less; a diamond polished, that was first a diamond in the rough.
  • His tribe were God Almighty's gentlemen.
    • John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (1681), Part I, line 645.


  • "I am a gentleman." I'll be sworn thou art;
    Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions and spirit,
    Do give thee five-fold blazon.
  • As for gentlemen, they be made good cheap in this kingdom; for whosoever studieth the laws of the realm, who studieth in the Universities, who professeth the liberal sciences, and (to be short) who can live idly, and without manual labour, and will bear the port, charge, and countenance of a gentleman, he shall be called master, and shall be taken for a gentleman.
    • Sir Thomas Smith, Commonwealth of England, b. 1, c. 20; Steph. Com., Vol. 2 (9th ed.), 619; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 51, n. 4.
  • Bob Forestier had pretended for so many years to be a gentleman that in the end, forgetting that it was all a fake, he had found himself driven to act as in that stupid, conventional brain of his he thought a gentleman must act. No longer knowing the difference between sham and real, he had sacrificed his life to a spurious heroism.
  • The gentle minde by gentle deeds is knowne;
    For a man by nothing is so well bewrayed
    As by his manners.
    • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1589-96), Book VI, Canto III, Stanza 1.


  • And thus he bore without abuse
    The grand old name of gentleman,
    Defamed by every charlatan
    And soiled with all ignoble use.


  • The Italian Nerd does not exist (Nerd in the style of Gary Numan and Kraftwerk, of The Feelies and Devo). The Italian male does not feel / recognize the relevance of nerddom. This was felt at the Milan airport as a patrician black-clad gentleman moved the croissant into his mouth with gusto. The nerds, or what was left of them, were offered American coffee.


  • The gentleman knows that whatever is imperfect and unrefined does not deserve praise. ... He makes his eyes not want to see what is not right, makes his ears not want to hear that is not right, makes his mouth not want to speak what is not right, and makes his heart not want to deliberate over what is not right. ... For this reason, power and profit cannot sway him, the masses cannot shift him, and nothing in the world can shake him.
    • Xun Zi, “An Exhortation to Learning,” E. Hutton, trans., Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (2001), p. 260

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical QuotationsEdit

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 310.
  • Oh! St. Patrick was a gentleman,
    Who came of decent people.
  • Of the offspring of the gentilman Jafeth come Habraham, Moyses, Aron, and the profettys; also the Kyng of the right lyne of Mary, of whom that gentilman Jhesus was borne.
  • A gentleman I could never make him, though I could make him a lord.

See alsoEdit

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