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n. pl. im·pro·pri·e·ties
1. The quality or condition of being improper.
2. An improper act.
3. An improper or unacceptable usage in speech or writing.


n, pl -ties
1. lack of propriety; indecency; indecorum
2. an improper act or use
3. the state of being improper


(ˌɪm prəˈpraɪ ɪ ti)

n., pl. -ties.
1. the quality or condition of being improper.
2. inappropriateness; unsuitableness.
3. unseemliness; indecorousness.
4. an erroneous or unsuitable expression or act.
5. an improper use of language.
[1605–15; < Late Latin]




  1. About as risqué as a bed in a hospital —George Jean Nathan
  2. All wrong … like a priest for whom one has a great respect suddenly taking his trousers off in church —Daphne du Maurier
  3. Decorously as an old maid on the way to get her hair dyed blue —A. E. Maxwell
  4. Improper as thumbing your nose at the pope —Anon
  5. Prim as Hippolytus —Stevie Smith
  6. (Girls, at sixteen, for all our strictures, are) proper as Puritans —Phyllis McGinley
  7. Proper like the hostesses in restaurants frequented by women shoppers —Ludwig Bemelmans



beyond the pale Beyond the limits of propriety or courtesy; outside the bounds of civilized behavior. The word pale comes from the Latin palus ‘stake’ (cf. palisade), hence an enclosing or confining barrier; limits or boundaries. The phrase originally had a more literal meaning (still sometimes used today) ‘outside an enclosed area’ and by extension, ‘outside one’s jurisdiction or territory.’

cross [someone’s] bows See VEXATION.

do you know Dr. Wright of Norwich? A mildly sarcastic comment made to someone at a dinner party who does not pass the decanter, preventing other guests from helping themselves to wine. The popular story which gives the background for this British expression involves a man known as Dr. Wright of Norwich, a charming guest and gifted conversationalist. Asking a dinner guest, “Do you know Dr. Wright of Norwich?” implies that the person is holding up the decanter, as Dr. Wright was wont to do, but unlike the good Doctor, not compensating for this breach of manners by entertaining the company with enlivening conversation.

gate crasher One who attends a social affair, athletic event, etc., without the proper admission credentials; an uninvited, unwanted guest. This expression has entered into wide use among the youthful, concert-going crowd in reference to their more belligerent peers who sneak or force their ways into crowded rock concerts. The term is literally used for persons who gain entry to an event by actually smashing down barriers. The phrase has been in use for most of this century.

“One-eyed Connolly,” the champion American “gate crasher” (one who gains admittance to big sporting events without payment.) {Daily News, June, 1927)

pigs in clover Well-to-do and supposedly refined people who act in a boorish manner; parvenus. Figuratively, a pig is a person with the characteristics or habits commonly associated with that animal, while in clover implies luxury or wealth; hence the expression. See also in clover, AFFLUENCE.

put one’s foot in one’s mouth To say something inappropriate, gauche, or indiscreet; to commit a verbal faux pas. This expression implies that by saying something out of line, a person has figuratively put his foot in his mouth, an imprudent and untoward activity in any situation. A variation is put one’s foot in it.

I put my foot into it (as we say), for
I was nearly killed. (Frederick Marryat, Peter Simple, 1833)

A related, more contemporary expression is foot-in-mouth disease, a play on hoof-and-mouth disease of cattle, and a jocular reference to an affliction in which a person exhibits a marked tendency to constantly “put his foot in his mouth.”

sail close to the wind To act in a manner that verges on the illegal, immoral, or improper; to say or do something that borders on being in bad taste; to observe the letter but not the spirit of the law. Literally, to sail close to the wind is to head one’s ship into the wind at enough of an angle to keep the sails filled. This is a risky tactic as the ship is in constant danger of being in irons if there is even a slight change in the wind direction. Figuratively, this expression implies that one’s words or actions put him in a precarious position because they are so close to the limits of propriety.

A certain kind of young English gentleman, who has sailed too close to the wind at home, and who comes to the colony to be whitewashed. (Henry Kingsley, The Hilly ars and the Burtons, 1865)

A variation is sail near to the wind.

step on toes To upset, offend, or irritate, especially by encroaching on someone’s territory; to overstep one’s bounds. Literally stepping on someone’s toes is a violation of space or territory. On a figurative level, the “territory” usually refers to one’s area of responsibility or realm of authority. The expression is often said of an upstart who prematurely assumes authority or responsibility delegated to someone else. An OED citation dates the expression from the 14th century, but whether the use was literal or figurative is difficult to determine.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.impropriety - an improper demeanor
demeanor, demeanour, deportment, behaviour, conduct, behavior - (behavioral attributes) the way a person behaves toward other people
incorrectness - lack of conformity to social expectations
inappropriateness, wrongness - inappropriate conduct
indelicacy - the trait of being indelicate and offensive
indecorousness, indecorum - a lack of decorum
indecency - the quality of being indecent
correctitude, properness, propriety - correct or appropriate behavior
2.impropriety - the condition of being improper
condition, status - a state at a particular time; "a condition (or state) of disrepair"; "the current status of the arms negotiations"
3.impropriety - an indecent or improper act
misbehavior, misbehaviour, misdeed - improper or wicked or immoral behavior
obscenity - an obscene act
4.impropriety - an act of undue intimacyimpropriety - an act of undue intimacy    
misbehavior, misbehaviour, misdeed - improper or wicked or immoral behavior


noun (Formal)
1. indecency, vulgarity, immodesty, bad taste, incongruity, unsuitability, indecorum Inviting him up to your hotel room would smack of impropriety.
indecency decency, delicacy, modesty, suitability, propriety, decorum
2. lapse, mistake, slip, blunder, gaffe, bloomer (Brit. informal), faux pas, solecism, gaucherie He resigned amid allegations of financial impropriety.
"Impropriety is the soul of wit" [W. Somerset Maugham The Moon and Sixpence]


2. An improper act or statement:
عَدَم لياقَه، عَدَم مُناسَبَه
helytelen szóhasználat
ótilhlÿîileiki; dónaskapur


[ˌɪmprəˈpraɪətɪ] N [of person, behaviour] (= unseemliness) → incorrección f, falta f de decoro; (= indecency) → indecencia f; [of language] → impropiedad f; (= illicit nature) → deshonestidad f


[ˌɪmprəˈpraɪɪti] n
[behaviour] → inconvenance f
the impropriety of publicly reading private letters → l'inconvenance qui consiste à lire en public des lettres d'ordre privé
[expression] → impropriété f


nUnschicklichkeit f; (of behaviour etc, language, remark)Ungehörigkeit f; (= indecency: of jokes etc) → Unanständigkeit f; sexual/financial improprietysexuelles/finanzielles Fehlverhalten


[ˌɪmprəˈpraɪətɪ] n (frm) (of behaviour) → scorrettezza; (unseemliness, indecency) → sconvenienza; (of expression) → improprietà f inv


(imˈpropə) adjective
(of behaviour etc) not acceptable; indecent; wrong. improper suggestions.
impropriety (imprəˈpraiəti) noun
improper fraction
a fraction which is larger than 1. 7/5 is an improper fraction.
References in classic literature ?
It's just as well you shouldn't," said Christie shortly, whose ideas of a general classical impropriety had been gathered from pages of Lempriere's dictionary.
The age had not so much refinement, that any sense of impropriety restrained the wearers of petticoat and farthingale from stepping forth into the public ways, and wedging their not unsubstantial persons, if occasion were, into the throng nearest to the scaffold at an execution.
And forthwith the soul of him would flame up and become eloquent--it was almost an impropriety, for all the while his gaze would be fixed upon Marija's face, until she would begin to turn red and lower her eyes.
Some dim ideas of imprudence or impropriety in the measure seemed to embarrass him considerably; for he often stopped, as Eliza glided forward, and looked wistfully, first at her and then at the house, and then, as if reassured by reflection, he pattered along after her again.
The facts in the case were these: Until a very little while after I went there, white and black ship-carpenters worked side by side, and no one seemed to see any impropriety in it.
I should hold myself guilty of greater impropriety in accepting a horse from my brother, than from Willoughby.
He seemed to think I had committed an impropriety in proposing to accompany him unmarried: as if I had not from the first hoped to find in him a brother, and habitually regarded him as such.
Vanstone's character which Miss Garth, after many years of intimate experience, had never detected, she accepted the explanation as a matter of course; receiving it all the more readily inasmuch as it might, without impropriety, be communicated in substance to appease the irritated curiosity of the two young ladies.
Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark for ever.
Micawber has her sea-legs on - an expression in which I hope there is no conventional impropriety - she will give them, I dare say, "Little Tafflin".
There is not the slightest impropriety in her doing so," said Sir Charles.
Sancho had not thought it worth while to hobble Rocinante, feeling sure, from what he knew of his staidness and freedom from incontinence, that all the mares in the Cordova pastures would not lead him into an impropriety.