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polite society



polite society (uncountable)

  1. The elite or upper crust of society.
    • 1803, Maria Edgeworth, "The Manufacturers":
      [H]e had been brought up in an extravagant family, who considered tradesmen and manufacturers as a caste disgraceful to polite society.
    • c. 1860, William Makepeace Thackeray, Roundabout Papers, 4: On Some Late Great Victories:
      [I]n the midst of the company assembled the reader's humble servant was present, and in a very polite society, too, of "poets, clergymen, men of letters, and members of both Houses of Parliament."
  2. That portion of society that is especially concerned with etiquette, proper behavior, and politeness.
    • 1892, F. Marion Crawford, Pietro Ghisleri, ch. 14:
      [S]he managed with considerable effort to keep up a sufficient outward semblance of mourning to satisfy the customs and fashions of polite society.
    • 1909, P. G. Wodehouse, The Gem Collector, ch. 6:
      Scenes, Lady Jane had explained—on the occasion of his knocking down an objectionable cabman during their honeymoon trip—were of all things what polite society most resolutely abhorred.
    • 2002 May 26, Frank Gibney Jr., "Can a Church Go Broke?," Time (retrieved 13 May 2014):
      It used to be said that in polite society one shouldn't discuss sex or money.