• (British) IPA: /ˈkɔːtli/
  • (America) IPA: /ˈkɔɹtli/

courtly (comparative courtlier, superlative courtliest)

  1. Befitting of a royal court; reflecting the manners or behaviour of people at court.
    Synonyms: refined, dignified, genteel, well-mannered
    He swept off his hat and made a deep courtly bow.
    The troubadours sang songs about courtly love.
    • circa 1599 William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act III, Scene 2,
      smallcaps Corin: You have too courtly a wit for me; I’ll rest.
    • 1682, Aphra Behn, The Roundheads, or, The Good Old Cause, London: D. Brown et al., Act III, Scene 1, p. 23,
      […] you must give men of Quality leave to speak in a Language more Gentile and Courtly than the ordinary sort of mankind.
    • 1715, Alexander Pope, The Iliad of Homer, London: Bernard Lintott, Volume 1, Book 3, Observations, p. 11,
      He is a Master of Civility, no less well-bred to his own Sex than courtly to the other.
    • 1850, Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, London: Bradbury & Evans, Volume 1, Chapter 17, p. 183,
      As they abased themselves before him, Mr. Micawber took a seat, and waved his hand in his most courtly manner.
    • 1947, Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano, New York: New American Library, 1965, Chapter 1, p. 11,
      Their voices, the gestures of their refined grimy hands, were unbelievably courtly, delicate. Their carriage suggested the majesty of Aztec princes, their faces obscure sculpturings on Yucatecan ruins.
  2. Of or relating to a royal court.
    She tried to remain aloof from courtly intrigues.
    • ante 1627 Sir John Beaumont, 1st Baronet, “Horat. Lib. 2. Sat. 6.” in Bosworth-Field with a Taste of the Variety of Other Poems, London: Henry Seile, p. 40,
      in houres secure from courtly strife
    • 1776, Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Philadelphia, p. 40,
      The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a spaniel.
    • 1857, Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, & Roberts, Volume 1, Chapter 3, p. 30,
      He had for years held some clerical office appertaining to courtly matters, which had enabled him to live in London,
  3. (obsolete) Overly eager to please or obey.
    Synonyms: flattering, obsequious, servile
    • 1763, Charles Churchill (satirist), The Duellist, London: G. Kearsly et al., Book 3, p. 29,
      Here FLATT’RY, eldest born of guile,
      Weaves with rare skill the silken smile,
      The courtly cringe, the supple bow,
      The private squeeze, the Levee vow,
    • 1849, Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, Volume 2, Chapter 7, p. 152,
      That judgment James had notoriously obtained […] by dismissing scrupulous magistrates, and by placing on the bench other magistrates more courtly.
Related terms Translations Adverb


  1. In the manner of a royal court; in a manner befitting of a royal court.
    Synonyms: courtlily
    • 1598, Robert Greene (dramatist), The Scottish Historie of James the Fourth, London, Act I, Scene 1,
      Then will I deck thee Princely, instruct thee courtly,
      And present thee to the Queene as my gift.
    • 1673, John Dryden, The Assignation, London: Henry Herringman, Act II, Scene 3, p. 17,
      […] where, in the name of wonder, have you learn’d to talk so courtly?
    • 1766, Elizabeth Griffith, The Double Mistake, London: J. Almon et al., Act I, Scene 3, p. 12,
      Very courtly and correctly spoken on all sides, my lord;
    • 1980, Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers, New York: Simon & Schuster, Chapter 74, p. 661,
      The driver waited courtly by the open doors of the saloon.

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