1590s, "fashionably elegant; suitable to polite society, characteristic of a lady or gentleman; decorous in manners or behavior," from Middle French gentil "stylish, fashionable, elegant; nice, graceful, pleasing," from Old French gentil "high-born, noble" (11c.); a reborrowing (with evolved senses) of the French word that had early come into English as gentle (q.v.), with French pronunciation and stress preserved to emphasize the distinction. The Latin source of the French word is the ancestor of English gentile, but the main modern meaning of that word is from a later Scriptural sense in Latin. See also jaunty. OED 2nd ed. reports genteel "is now used, except by the ignorant, only in mockery" (a development it dates from the 1840s).
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