From Middle French décent, or its source, Latin decēns, present participle of decet (“it is fitting or suitable”), from Proto-Indo-European *deḱ- (“to take, accept, to receive, greet, be suitable”) (compare Ancient Greek δοκέω (dokéō, “I appear, seem, think”), δέχομαι (dékhomai, “I accept”); Sanskrit दशस्यति (daśasyáti, “shows honor, is gracious”), दाशति (dāśati, “makes offerings, bestows”)). Meaning ‘kind, pleasant’ is from 1902.
decent (comparative more decent, superlative most decent)
- (obsolete) Appropriate; suitable for the circumstances.
- (of a person) Having a suitable conformity to basic moral standards; showing integrity, fairness, or other characteristics associated with moral uprightness.
- (informal) Sufficiently clothed or dressed to be seen.
Are you decent? May I come in?
- Fair; good enough; okay.
1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword”, in The China Governess:
A canister of flour from the kitchen had been thrown at the looking-glass and lay like trampled snow over the remains of a decent blue suit with the lining ripped out which lay on top of the ruin of a plastic wardrobe.
- 1991, Stephen Fry, The Liar, p. 35:
- And ‘blubbing’... Blubbing went out with ‘decent’ and ‘ripping’. Mind you, not a bad new language to start up. Nineteen-twenties schoolboy slang could be due for a revival.
He's a decent saxophonist, but probably not good enough to make a career of it.
- Significant; substantial.
There are a decent number of references out there, if you can find them.
- (obsolete) Comely; shapely; well-formed.
a. 1645, John Milton, “Il Penseroso”, in Poems of Mr. John Milton, […] , London: Printed by Ruth Raworth for Humphrey Moſely, […], published 1645, OCLC 606951673, page 38:
And ſable ſtole of Cipres Lawn,
Over thy decent ſhoulders drawn.
appropriate, suitable for the circumstances
showing integrity, fairness, moral uprightness
comely; shapely; well-formed