A word or expression thought by its user to be more refined than another, as in expectorate for spit.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


a word or phrase used in place of a less genteel one
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(dʒɛnˈti lɪz əm)

a word or phrase used in place of another, supposedly less genteel term.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the deliberate use of a word or phrase as a substitute for one thought to be less proper, if not coarse, as male cow for buil or limb for leg.
2. an instance of such substitution.
See also: Language
a polished style and graceful form in literary works.
See also: Literary Style
-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Such apparent lapses in literary realism have been either condemned by more radical critics as symptoms of its complicity in racism with the dominant social forces, or more often condoned as slips caused by the residual genteelism that failed to tune in to realism's avowed humanitarian aspirations.
In Modern English Usage, Henry Fowler was often misled by his own personal preferences, and proved wrong by history--as in his subjective belief that "Chiropodist is a barbarism and a genteelism." Yet he could also be admirably objective, demolishing myths about such things as split infinitives, and admitting that even usages he disliked would probably find their way into standard English.
But I forbear to animadvert further on the disgraceful performance of this fons et origo of the new genteelism, as the job has already been done so splendidly by Leon Wieseltier on the back page of The New Republic.
Time magazine film critic Richard Schickel recalls "New Yorker" as "the Langdon Street (Madison's fraternity row) genteelism for Jews" as part of his Wisconsin experience in the early 1950s.
Rolfe, for Perloff, synedochically represents a "radical political" wing doomed by its weak repetition of 1890s genteelism to poetic and political failure.
`Writing against' is unfashionable in this post-Diana world of emotional literacy which is, in so many ways, just another form of genteelism, or possibly the clothing of indifference in a North American vocabulary.
In this way, the Chaplin film was a blow struck against what the reviewer saw as his two great enemies: middle-class genteelism and hypocrisy.
They reacted against Victorianism, Georgianism, genteelism, the academy, the establishment, the rules and conventions, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Swinburne, Bridges--the whole suffocating past.