AskDefine | Define manners

Dictionary Definition

manners n : social deportment; "he has the manners of a pig"

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Plural of manner
  2. Etiquette (always plural in this sense).



Extensive Definition

In sociology, manners are the unenforced standards of conduct which show the actor to be cultured, polite, and refined. They are like laws in that they codify or set a standard for human behavior, but they are unlike laws in that there is no formal system for punishing transgressions, other than social disapproval. They are a kind of norm. What is considered "mannerly" is highly susceptible to change with time, geographical location, social stratum, occasion, and other factors. That manners matter is evidenced by the fact that large books have been written on the subject, advice columns frequently deal with questions of mannerly behavior, and that schools have existed for the sole purpose of teaching manners. A lady is a term frequently used for a woman who follows proper manners; the term gentleman is used as a male counterpart; though these terms are also often used for members of a particular social class.

Purpose of manners

Ease the stress of communal living, and mannerly behavior recognizes the right of others to share communal space. Many of our daily expressions of politeness reflect this function. Saying "excuse me," for example, shows that you recognize that you have invaded another's space, and regret the necessity of doing so. It is a basic tenet in law that it is wrongful to cause damages to another (see norm). Since there cannot be a law for every slight, daily causing of damage to another, manners serve to at least acknowledge, if not make recompense, for the damage.

Miss Manners

One thinker, Judith Martin, (aka Miss Manners -- see Further Reading below) regrets that in recent times the idea that one should be "assertive" has gained currency, holding that being assertive is simply another name for "the Impulse Rude," which is to be resisted at all times. She prefers "the withering look, the insistent and repeated request, the cold voice, the report up the chain of command, and the tilted nose." She also rejects the idea that manners is all about making people comfortable, "as if etiquette weren't magnificently capable of being used to make others feel uncomfortable, all in the name of preserving peace in the public arena. Manners are used in life for good people so that other people know that you were raised correctly and that you are civilized."


Further reading

  • New Manners for New Times: A Complete Guide to Etiquette, by Letitia Baldrige, New York: Scribner, 2003, ISBN 0-7432-1062-X, 709 pages.
  • Manners from Heaven: A Divine Guide to Good Behaviour, by Quentin Crisp, HarperCollins Publishers (June 13, 1985), ISBN 0-00-654133-X, 138 pages.
  • Town & Country Modern Manners: The Thinking Person's Guide to Social Graces, edited by Thomas P. Farley, Hearst Books (September 2005), ISBN 1-58816-454-3, 256 pages.
  • Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, by Judith Martin, W. W. Norton & Company; Updated edition (April 20, 2005), ISBN 0-393-05874-3, 864 pages.
  • Emily Post's Etiquette, by Peggy Post, HarperResource; 17th Indxd edition (November 1, 2004), ISBN 0-06-620957-9, 896 pages. Available online at Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home.
manners in Czech: Mravy
manners in German: Benehmen
manners in Hebrew: נימוסים
manners in Japanese: マナー

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

action, actions, activity, acts, address, affectation, air, amenities, bearing, behavior, behavior pattern, behavioral norm, behavioral science, bienseance, bon ton, carriage, civilities, civility, comity, comportment, conduct, conformity, consuetude, convention, correctitude, correctness, courtliness, culture pattern, custom, decencies, decorum, demeanor, deportment, diplomatic code, doing, doings, elegance, elegancies, established way, etiquette, exquisite manners, fashion, folkway, formalities, gestures, goings-on, good behavior, good form, good manners, guise, maintien, manner, mannerliness, method, methodology, methods, mien, modus vivendi, mores, motions, movements, moves, natural politeness, observable behavior, observance, pattern, point of etiquette, poise, polite behavior, politeness, politesse, port, pose, posture, practice, praxis, prescription, presence, procedure, proceeding, proper thing, proprieties, protocol, punctilio, quiet good manners, ritual, rules of conduct, savoir-faire, savoir-vivre, social code, social conduct, social convention, social graces, social procedures, social science, social usage, standard behavior, standard usage, standing custom, style, tactics, time-honored practice, tone, tradition, usage, use, way, way of life, ways, what is done, wont, wonting
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