Definition of proper in English:


Syllabification: prop·er
Pronunciation: /ˈpräpər


  • 1 [attributive] Truly what something is said or regarded to be; genuine: she’s never had a proper job a proper meal
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    • 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.
  • 1.1 [postpositive] Strictly so called; in its true form: some of the dos and don’ts in espionage proper
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    • 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 [predic.] (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.
    More 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 Back to top  
  • 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


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  • The part of a church service that varies with the season or festival.
    More 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.



More 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'.

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Pronunciation: ˌkɒlərəˈtjʊərə
elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody