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Gentle, genteel, gentility
Posted by: marian2 (192.168.128.---)
Date: December 19, 2005 05:00AM

I always thought the word gentility was the noun from the adjective genteel. Looking it up I find it is from gentle, which is from the French word for class (itself from the Latin word for class), releated to gentleman, gentlemanly etc. According to my etymological dictionary, gentility is a second borrowing from the same French word and in modern use tends to have a degree of opprobium attached.

The thing that surprised and delighted me however, was to discover that the original neutral meaning of the word gentle (ie class) was superseded by one including an approving qualification ie well-bred, or of good class (though whether this was in the Latin, French or English period of usage wasn't clear). (The meaning I've always understood gentle to have is rather different anyway - primarily not wishing to hurt and acting compassionately, often in a physical sense - doesn't appear at all!)
The word quality is going through the same process of evolution at present - when I was a child it was always qualified by good, poor, acceptable etc, now it is primarily used alone, esp in advertising eg Quality Carpets, and seems to have nearly acheived it.

I'm posting this partly to share said delight and also to ask if anyone knows of any other words that have absorbed qualifying adjectives in this way, either in modern usage or earlier.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/19/2005 05:01AM by marian2.


Re: Gentle, genteel, gentility
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: December 19, 2005 09:57AM

I think that "taste" would be a one. Perhaps "style" as well




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