Gentlemen initially denoted well-educated men of good family and distinction. In this sense, the word equates with the French gentilhomme ("nobleman"), which latter term was, in Great Britain, long confined to the peerage. The word gentry derives from the old term Adel, but without the strict technical requirements of those traditions, such as quarters of nobility. To a degree, gentleman signified a man with an income derived from property, a legacy or some other source, and was thus independently wealthy and did not need to work. The term was particularly used of those who could not claim nobility or even the rank of esquire. Widening further, it became a politeness for all men, as in the phrase Ladies and Gentlemen. In modern speech, the term is usually democratised so as to include any man of good, courteous conduct, or even to all men (as in indications of gender-separated facilities, or as a sign of the speaker's own courtesy when addressing others).
- The taste of beauty, and the relish of what is decent, just and amiable, perfects the character of the gentleman and the philosopher. And the study of such a taste or relish will, as we suppose, be ever the great employment and concern of him who covets as well to be wise and good, as agreeable and polite.
- Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711), "Miscellany III".
- Rousseauist and Baconian, though often superficially at odds with one another, have co-operated in undermining, not merely religious tradition, but another tradition which in the Occident goes back finally, not to Judea, but to ancient Greece. This older tradition may be defined as humanistic. The goal of the humanist is poised and proportionate living. This he hopes to accomplish by observing the law of measure. ... Decorum is supreme for the humanist even as humility takes precedence over all other virtues in the eyes of the Christian. Traditionally the idea of decorum has been associated, often with a considerable admixture of mere formalism, with the idea of the gentleman.
- Irving Babbitt, "What I Believe" (1930), Irving Babbitt: Representative Writings (1981), pp. 6-7
- Nothing is more certain, than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connected with manners and with civilization, have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles; and were indeed the result of both combined; I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion.
- Tho' modest, on his unembarrass'd brow
Nature had written—"Gentleman."
- I was ne'er so thrummed since I was a gentleman.
- Thomas Dekker, The Honest Whore (1604), Part I, Act IV, scene 2.
- The best of men
That e'er wore earth about him was a sufferer;
A soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit,
The first true gentleman that ever breathed.
- Thomas Dekker, The Honest Whore (1604), Part I, Act I, scene 2.
- To be a gentleman does not depend upon the tailor or the toilet. Good clothes are not good habits. A gentleman is just a gentle-man,—no more, no less; a diamond polished, that was first a diamond in the rough.
- His tribe were God Almighty's gentlemen.
- John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (1681), Part I, line 645.
- My master hath been an honourable gentleman; tricks he hath had in him, which gentlemen have.
- I freely told you, all the wealth I had
Ran in my veins, I was a gentleman.
- A gentleman born, master parson; who writes himself 'Armigero;' in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, 'Armigero.'
- We are gentlemen,
That neither in our hearts, nor outward eyes
Envy the great, nor do the low despise.
- Since every Jack became a gentleman,
There's many a gentle person made a Jack.
- An affable and courteous gentleman.
- "I am a gentleman." I'll be sworn thou art;
Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions and spirit,
Do give thee five-fold blazon.
- He is complete in feature, and in mind,
With all good grace to grace a gentleman.
- You are not like Cerberus, three gentlemen at once, are you?
- Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The Rivals (1775), Act IV, scene 2.
- As for gentlemen, they be made good cheap in this kingdom; for whosoever studieth the laws of the realm, who studieth in the Universities, who professeth the liberal sciences, and (to be short) who can live idly, and without manual labour, and will bear the port, charge, and countenance of a gentleman, he shall be called master, and shall be taken for a gentleman.
- Sir Thomas Smith, Commonwealth of England, b. 1, c. 20; Steph. Com., Vol. 2 (9th ed.), 619; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 51, n. 4.
- Bob Forestier had pretended for so many years to be a gentleman that in the end, forgetting that it was all a fake, he had found himself driven to act as in that stupid, conventional brain of his he thought a gentleman must act. No longer knowing the difference between sham and real, he had sacrificed his life to a spurious heroism.
- W. Somerset Maugham, Collected short stories 1, "The lion's skin", p. 283
- The gentle minde by gentle deeds is knowne;
For a man by nothing is so well bewrayed
As by his manners.
- Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1589-96), Book VI, Canto III, Stanza 1.
- And thus he bore without abuse
The grand old name of gentleman,
Defamed by every charlatan
And soiled with all ignoble use.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 310.
- Oh! St. Patrick was a gentleman,
Who came of decent people.
- Henry Bennett, St. Patrick was a Gentleman.
- Of the offspring of the gentilman Jafeth come Habraham, Moyses, Aron, and the profettys; also the Kyng of the right lyne of Mary, of whom that gentilman Jhesus was borne.
- Juliana Berners, Heraldic Blazonry.
- A gentleman I could never make him, though I could make him a lord.
- James I of England, to his old nurse, who begged him to make her son a gentleman.