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.
He's a decent saxophonist, but probably not good enough to make a career of it.
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.
2021 June 30, Philip Haigh, “Regional trains squeezed as ECML congestion heads north”, in RAIL, number 934, page 53:
I'm all for opening new stations (Transport Scotland is planning another at East Linton, about halfway between Drem and Dunbar), but they are useless without a decent service.
- Significant; substantial.
There are a decent number of references out there, if you can find them.
- Conforming to perceived standards of good taste.
1899 Feb, Joseph Conrad, “The Heart of Darkness”, in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, page 201:
I had a cup of tea - the last decent cup of tea for many days; and in a room that most soothingly looked just as you would expect a lady’s drawing-room to look, we had a long quiet chat by the fireside.
- (obsolete) Comely; shapely; well-formed.
a. 1645, John Milton, “Il Penseroso”, in Poems of Mr. John Milton, […], London: […] Ruth Raworth for Humphrey Mosely, […], published 1646, 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
- Belarusian: прысто́йны (prystójny)
- Bulgarian: благоприли́чен (bg) (blagoprilíčen), прили́чен (bg) (prilíčen), присто́ен (bg) (pristóen)
- Mandarin: 體面 (zh), 体面 (zh) (tǐmiàn)
- Czech: slušný (cs)
- Danish: anstændig, pæn (da)
- Dutch: integer (nl)
- Finnish: kunnollinen (fi), rehellinen (fi), säädyllinen (fi)
- French: intègre (fr)
- Galician: decente m or f
- Georgian: წესიერი (c̣esieri), ზრდილი (zrdili)
- German: anständig (de), sittsam (de)
- Alemannic German: aaschtändig
- Greek: κόσμιος (el) (kósmios), ευπρεπής (el) (efprepís)
- Hebrew: הגון (he) (hagun)
- Hungarian: tisztességes (hu), derék (hu), rendes (hu)
- Indonesian: baik (id)
- Irish: gnaíúil
comely; shapely; well-formed