see also: Proper
  • (Australia) IPA: /ˈpɹɔp.ə/
  • (British) IPA: /ˈpɹɒp.ə(ɹ)/
  • (America) enPR: präpʹər, IPA: /ˈpɹɑ.pɚ/


  1. (heading) Suitable.
    1. Suited or acceptable to the purpose or circumstances; fit, suitable. [13th c.]
      the proper time to plant potatoes
      • 1733, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Man. […], (please specify ), London: Printed for J[ohn] Wilford, […], OCLC 960856019 ↗:
    2. Following the established standards of behavior or manners; correct or decorous. [18th c.]
      a very proper young lady
      • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 639762314 ↗, page 0108 ↗:
        This new-comer was a man who in any company would have seemed striking. […] Indeed, all his features were in large mold, like the man himself, as though he had come from a day when skin garments made the proper garb of men.
  2. (heading) Possessed, related.
    1. (grammar) Used to designate a particular person, place, or thing. Proper nouns are usually written with an initial capital letter. [14th c.]
    2. Pertaining exclusively to a specific thing or person; particular. [14th c.]
      • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: […], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970 ↗:
        , II.1.3:
        They have a proper saint almost for every peculiar infirmity: for poison, gouts, agues […].
      • those high and peculiar attributes […] which constitute our proper humanity
    3. (usually postpositive) In the strict sense; within the strict definition or core (of a specified place, taxonomic order, idea, etc).
      • 1893, Annual of the Universal Medical Sciences:
        These are divided into two great families, the vipers proper (Viperidae) and the pit-vipers (Crotalidae).
      • 1976, Eu-Yang Kwang, The political reconstruction of China, page 165:
        Siberia, though it stands outside the territorial confines of Russia proper, constitutes an essentially component part […] . Outer Mongolia, [so called] to distinguish it from Inner Mongolia, which lies nearer to China proper, revolted and declared its independence.
      • 2004, Stress, the Brain and Depression, page 24:
        Hence, this border is still blurred, raising the question whether traumatic life events induce sadness/distress – which is self-evident – or depression proper and, secondly, whether sadness/distress is a precursor or pacemaker of depression.
    4. (archaic) Belonging to oneself or itself; own. [14th c.]
      • c. 1596–1599, William Shakespeare, “The Second Part of Henry the Fourth, […]”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act V, scene ii]:
        a man so bold
        That dares do justice on my proper son
      • Now learn the difference, at your proper cost, / Betwixt true valour and an empty boast.
      • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: […], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970 ↗:
        , II.4.1.ii:
        every country, and more than that, every private place, hath his proper remedies growing in it, particular almost to the domineering and most frequent maladies of it.
      • 1946, Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, I.20:
        Each animal has its proper pleasure, and the proper pleasure of man is connected with reason.
    5. (heraldry) Portrayed in natural or usual coloration, as opposed to conventional tinctures. [16th c.]
    6. (mathematics) Being strictly part of some other thing (not necessarily explicitly mentioned, but of definitional importance), and not being the thing itself. [20th c.]
      proper subset — proper ideal
    7. (mathematics, physics) Eigen-; designating a function or value which is an eigenfunction or eigenvalue. [20th c.]
  3. (heading) Accurate, strictly applied.
    1. Excellent, of high quality; such as the specific person or thing should ideally be. (Now often merged with later senses.) [14th c.]
      Now that was a proper breakfast.
    2. (now, regional) Attractive, elegant. [14th c.]
      • 1526, William Tyndale, trans. Bible, Acts of the Apostles 7:
        The same tyme was Moses borne, and was a propper transterm ἀστεῖος childe in the sight of God, which was norisshed up in his fathers housse thre monethes.
    3. (often postpositive) In the very strictest sense of the word. [14th c.]
      • 1922 February, James Joyce, “[Episode 16]”, in Ulysses, Paris: Shakespeare & Co.; Sylvia Beach, OCLC 560090630 ↗; republished London: Published for the Egoist Press, London by John Rodker, Paris, October 1922, OCLC 2297483 ↗:
        Though unusual in the Dublin area he knew that it was not by any means unknown for desperadoes who had next to nothing to live on to be abroad waylaying and generally terrorising peaceable pedestrians by placing a pistol at their head in some secluded spot outside the city proper […].
    4. (now, colloquial) Utter, complete. [15th c.]
      When I realized I was wearing my shirt inside out, I felt a proper fool.
Synonyms Antonyms Related terms Translations Translations Translations Translations Translations Translations Translations Translations
  • German: richtig
  • Portuguese: por completo
  • Russian: по́лный

proper (not comparable)

  1. (UK, Australia, colloquial) properly; thoroughly; completely.
    • 1964, Saint Andrew Society (Glasgow, Scotland), The Scots magazine: Volume 82
      Don't you think you must have looked proper daft?
  2. (nonstandard, colloquial) properly.
    • 2012, Soufside, Hello (song)
      When I meet a bad chick, know I gotta tell her hello
      talk real proper, but she straight up out the ghetto

proper (plural propers)

  1. (obsolete) Something set apart for a special use.

Proper noun
  1. Surname

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