Definition of proper in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpräpər/


1 [attributive] Truly what something is said or regarded to be; genuine: she’s never had a proper job a proper meal
More example sentences
  • No doubt, hawking is not often regarded as a proper job, but in reality, it involves minimum investment with maximum returns.
  • Surely there can be no genuine democracy without proper self-determination free from the narrow minded preferences of an aggressor state.
  • So, of course, we had real jobs with proper tax codes, an optional pensions scheme, sickness cover and employee rights.
real, genuine, actual, true, bona fide
informal kosher
1.1 [postpositive] Strictly so called; in its true form: some of the dos and don’ts in espionage proper
More example sentences
  • They're not going to be taxed on hotel rooms if they can prove that they were living in New Orleans proper and that they're actual evacuees.
  • Warrenpoint now proceed to the first round proper where they will meet Irvinestown from Fermanagh back in Clontiberet in a fortnight's time.
  • It seems like there's a strip of stores and businesses three miles long, from the Michigan border into Iron Mountain proper.
1.2 informal, chiefly British Used as an intensifier, often in derogatory contexts: she looked like a proper harlot
More example sentences
  • She's a proper little child, getting into mischief.
  • In short, I was a proper little Cultural Revolutionary in the making.
  • Part of me wanted to tell her that Lydia had happily left home to be with Matty and was looking forward to their marriage and becoming a proper little housewife.
2 [attributive] Of the required type; suitable or appropriate: an artist needs the proper tools they had not followed the proper procedures
More example sentences
  • Often when dealing with parts of the engine, or the hard-to-reach spots under the hood, proper tools are required.
  • This procedure is often time-consuming, tedious to perform and requires proper facilities.
  • Its proper use requires moral reflection and the establishment of moral limits.
right, correct, accepted, orthodox, conventional, established, official, formal, regular, acceptable, appropriate, de rigueur
archaic meet
2.1According to or respecting recognized social standards or conventions; respectable, especially excessively so: her parents' view of what was proper for a well-bred girl a very prim and proper Swiss lady
More example sentences
  • She'd learned to ride sidesaddle, as was proper for a young lady.
  • But no, neither was proper for a young lady of noble blood, a princess especially.
  • It's not exactly proper for ladies to get involved in such things.
respectable, decorous, seemly, decent, refined, ladylike, gentlemanly, genteel;
formal, conventional, correct, comme il faut, orthodox, polite, punctilious
3 [predicative] (proper to) Belonging or relating exclusively or distinctively to; particular to: the two elephant types proper to Africa and to southern Asia
More example sentences
  • On the other hand, it has the distinction proper to students who know to respect themselves and the things of the spirit to which they dedicate themselves.
3.1(Of a psalm, lesson, prayer, etc.) appointed for a particular day, occasion, or season.
3.2 archaic Belonging to oneself or itself; own: to judge with my proper eyes
4 [usually postpositive] Heraldry In the natural colors.
5 archaic (Of a person) good-looking: he is a proper youth!
6 Mathematics Denoting a subset or subgroup that does not constitute the entire set or group, especially one that has more than one element.
Example sentences
  • The second is that all mathematical proofs can be recast as logical proofs or, in other words, that the theorems of mathematics constitute a proper subset of those of logic.
  • An odd perfect number is defined to be an odd integer that is equal to the sum of its proper divisors.
  • Amicable numbers come in pairs in which each number is the sum of the proper divisors of the other.


British informal dialect
1Satisfactorily or correctly: my eyes were all blurry and I couldn’t see proper
More example sentences
  • If we all talked proper they wouldn't have to make us sound so awful.
1.1Thoroughly: I had been fooled good and proper


The part of a church service that varies with the season or festival.
Example sentences
  • Did every parish congregation need the propers for the Blessing of an Abbot?
  • That book has 1,293 pages, including such useful things as the propers for the Blessing of an Abbot.
  • Nevertheless, even within the settings of the propers and hours, one keeps coming across exquisitely beautiful moments.



Example sentences
  • It's tacky and seedy, but it's got these pretensions to properness - seaside landladies and all that stuff.
  • And as your husband, I will expect respect, decorum, and properness a woman is supposed to display.
  • The woman across the table was just as fearful, but kept herself under a mask-a mask of civilization hiding wild eyes, properness hiding tensed muscles, ready to spring.


Middle English: from Old French propre, from Latin proprius 'one's own, special'.

Words that rhyme with proper

bopper, copper, cropper, Dopper, dropper, hopper, improper, Joppa, poppa, popper, shopper, stopper, swapper, topper, whopper

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: prop·er

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