gentle (adj.)

early 13c., gentile, gentle "well-born, of noble rank or family," from Old French gentil/jentil "high-born, worthy, noble, of good family; courageous, valiant; fine, good, fair" (11c., in Modern French "nice, graceful, pleasing; fine, pretty") and directly from Latin gentilis "of the same family or clan," in Medieval Latin "of noble or good birth," from gens (genitive gentis) "race, clan," from root of gignere "beget," from PIE root *gene- "to give birth, beget," from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.

Sense evolved in English and French to "having the character or manners of one of noble rank or birth," varying according to how those were defined. From mid-13c. in English as "gracious, kind" (now obsolete), manners prescribed for Christian or chivalrous nobility. From late 13c. as "courteous, polite, well-bred, charming;" c. 1300 as "graceful, beautiful." Meaning "mild, tender; easy; not harsh" (of animals, things, persons) is from 1550s. Older sense remains in gentleman, and compare gentile (adj.), an alternative form which tends to keep the Biblical senses of the Latin word (though gentle in Middle English sometimes meant "pagan, heathen"), and genteel, which is the same word borrowed again from French. From 1823 as "pertaining to the fairies."

updated on April 25, 2017

Definitions of gentle from WordNet
gentle (adj.)
soft and mild; not harsh or stern or severe;
a vein of gentle irony
poked gentle fun at him
a gentle reprimand
Synonyms: soft
gentle (adj.)
having or showing a kindly or tender nature;
a gentle sensitive nature
her gentle manner was comforting
gentle blue eyes
the gentle touch of her hand
gentle (adj.)
quiet and soothing;
a gentle nocturne
a gentle voice
gentle (adj.)
belonging to or characteristic of the nobility or aristocracy;
of gentle blood
Synonyms: aristocratic / aristocratical / blue / blue-blooded / patrician
gentle (adj.)
easily handled or managed;
a gentle old horse, docile and obedient
Synonyms: docile
gentle (adj.)
having little impact;
gentle rain
a gentle breeze
Synonyms: easy / soft
gentle (adj.)
marked by moderate steepness;
a gentle slope
Synonyms: easy
gentle (v.)
cause to be more favorably inclined; gain the good will of;
Synonyms: pacify / lenify / conciliate / assuage / appease / mollify / placate / gruntle
gentle (v.)
give a title to someone; make someone a member of the nobility;
Synonyms: ennoble / entitle
gentle (v.)
stroke soothingly;
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