Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Decorous


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is decorous. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Decorous means “marked by propriety and good taste; correct.” A person or thing that is decorous conforms to an approved or conventional standard.

// Before making her daily announcements, the principal mentioned how proud she was of the students’ decorous conduct at the recent school dance.

DECOROUS in Context

“Ruth Orkin’s most famous picture was staged in Florence. Learning from a young American student how Italian men ogled and catcalled women, Orkin posed her in a picturesque but slightly seedy setting, looking straight ahead with an uncomfortable expression as she passed a gantlet of male bystanders. Taken in 1951, the picture offers a feminist rejoinder to a celebrated Richard Avedon image made four years earlier, of a Dior fashion model standing in Paris’s decorous Place de la Concorde, as three appreciative but respectful young men stride by.” — The New York Times, 19 Nov. 2021

Did You Know?

One of the earliest recorded uses of decorous appears in a book titled The Rules of Civility (1673): “It is not decorous to look in the Glass, to comb, brush, or do any thing of that nature to ourselves, whilst the said person be in the Room.” This rule of thumb may be a bit outdated; like many behaviors once deemed unbecoming, public primping is unlikely to offend in modern times. Though mores shift, decorous lives on to describe timeless courtesies like polite speech, proper attire, and (ahem) covering one’s cough.

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