Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Etiquette

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

What It Means

Etiquette refers to the rules of proper and polite behavior that are expected in social or official life.

// Her failure to respond to the invitation was a serious breach of etiquette.

ETIQUETTE in Context

“Keeping manners top of mind makes a difference when facing a dissatisfaction while dining out. Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert … tells USA Today that ‘you can get more with honey than you can with vinegar, that’s the bottom line. When you’re rude, you’re calling attention to yourself in many cases and also you’re making other people feel terrible and you’re sometimes making yourself look bad,’ she said. Often, if you are kind and direct, a situation can be resolved at a restaurant. It’s important to understand that etiquette is situational. Every staff and management system has different procedures but their common goal is to keep diners happy. But ‘that doesn’t give a diner permission to be rude to the waitstaff,’ Whitmore said.” — Morgan Hines, USA Today, 18 Oct. 2022

Did You Know?

If you’re looking for a polite topic of conversation to raise at your next gathering of word lovers, we’ve got just the ticket. The French word étiquette means “ticket”; its direct French ancestor also referred to a label attached to something for description or identification. Spaniards of the 16th-century adopted the French word (altering it to etiqueta), and used it to refer to the written protocols describing the behavior demanded of those who appeared at court. Eventually, etiqueta came to be applied to the court ceremonies themselves as well as to the documents which outlined their requirements. Word of this linguistic development got back to the French, who then expanded their word’s meaning to include “proper court behavior” along with its “label” sense. By the middle of the 18th century English speakers had taken on etiquette as their own, applying it to the rules that indicate the proper and polite way to behave, whether in the presence or royalty or not.

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