Definition of decency in English:



  • 1mass noun Behaviour that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability.

    ‘she had the decency to come and confess’
    • ‘We are committed to creating a culture of respect and decency within prisons both for staff and prisoners.’
    • ‘Well, if he couldn't help saying it, he might at least have had the decency to deny it when asked, but didn't.’
    • ‘We must treat those bereaved by crime or disaster with decency and courtesy.’
    • ‘But he has steadfastly refused to lower his high standards of morality and decency.’
    • ‘I am not conventionally religious, but I do have a very strong faith in the essential decency of humanity.’
    • ‘At least they have had the decency to come clean, and I respect that.’
    • ‘Well, at least they had the decency to apologise.’
    • ‘She has educated staff on treating people with respect and decency and she has set extremely high standards for prisoners.’
    • ‘If you were someone in public life who had any decency or any standards, you would resign.’
    • ‘An anarchic streak coexists with respect for decency and civility.’
    • ‘Her belief that standards and decency were important brought her into conflict with some of the accepted norms of her day.’
    • ‘Even if she did already have a boyfriend, she could've at least had the decency to tell him.’
    • ‘Indeed, it shows her decency and loyalty to colleagues that she did not publicly blame her junior for the error.’
    • ‘Here too, it seems, is a force for decency and civility that needs support.’
    • ‘Last year he promised to instil respect and decency in Scottish society.’
    • ‘Common decency, though, suggests that he should provide something for her.’
    • ‘Mic had the decency to blush, at least, though it didn't make me feel any less annoyed.’
    • ‘It is all about keeping up standards of decency, having respect for women and setting a good example to children.’
    • ‘The case for equal treatment is not about political correctness, but about human decency.’
    • ‘Up to now, the Post Office has not even had the decency to reply to me directly.’
    propriety, decorum, seemliness, good taste, respectability, dignity, correctness, good form, etiquette, appropriateness, appropriacy, fitness, suitability
    courtesy, politeness, good manners, civility, respect, respectfulness
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Behaviour or appearance that avoids impropriety or immodesty.
      ‘a loose dress, rather too low-cut for decency’
      • ‘Decadence remains an acquired taste, whereas decency is as fundamental as common sense.’
      • ‘The participation of girls and young women in gymnastic exhibitions was judged as contrary to public decency.’
      • ‘Police are now investigating an alleged offence of outraging public decency.’
      • ‘It is a vision of horror that, while it might offend our sense of taste and decency, can ultimately only evoke our compassion.’
      • ‘Girls from respectable families follow a clear code of conduct adhering to propriety and decency.’
      • ‘The Sixties completely wiped away the notion that virginity was essential to respectability and decency.’
      • ‘A jury of six men and six women took just an hour to decide that he was innocent of a charge of committing an act outraging public decency.’
      • ‘Obscenity had previously been understood in terms of prevailing standards of decency.’
      • ‘She was with a man who seemed as oblivious to public decency as she was, kissing and fondling her as they walked.’
      • ‘Suddenly I was sick of being cold and wet, and I just didn't care enough to bother with decency.’
      • ‘She has no hang-ups about working on the margins of decency, however.’
      • ‘She had the decency to cover herself with a brightly coloured, beaded shawl but it hardly helped.’
      • ‘In fact the art of draping a patient for warmth and decency and a professional barrier seem to be no more.’
      • ‘Police have already vowed to prosecute people for outraging public decency.’
      • ‘It seems to be the trend to rebel against all forms of tidiness, etiquette and decency.’
      • ‘Police have the power to take action against offenders for outraging public decency or indecent exposure.’
      • ‘The press is overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and of decency.’
      • ‘For this they were hauled up in a New York court on either obscenity or public decency charges.’
      • ‘There are a range of poo jokes we are going to avoid for the sake of decency.’
      • ‘What harm is there in trying to live a good life and to maintain public decency?’
    2. 1.2decencies The requirements of accepted or respectable behaviour.
      ‘an appeal to common decencies’
      • ‘These include the common moral decencies of integrity, trustworthiness, benevolence, and fairness.’
      • ‘In the popular fiction of the time, the guardian of empire moved from the decencies of Buchan to the sex-sadism-and-snobbery of Ian Fleming's James Bond.’
      • ‘This leaves thinking people intimidated and in despair for the decencies they revere.’
      • ‘Roger Scruton once wrote, ‘The principal damage done by liberalism has come from its relentless scoffing at ordinary prohibitions and decencies.’’
      • ‘The politics of behaviour is essentially about how we reteach these common decencies.’
      • ‘A glowing example of how to treat an adult theme without ever encroaching on drawing-room decencies.’
      • ‘I hope though I speak on behalf of many UK citizens here when I ask that if British universities are not prepared to represent and defend the basic decencies of democratic society, then who on earth is?’
      • ‘No doubt there are decent men and women in politics, but not many are articulating those decencies or performing deeds which might inspire good men and women to want to follow them.’
      • ‘The time has come for him to revert to the old, remembered decencies of his own childhood and return, if it is still possible, to his father's grace.’
      • ‘One would naturally expect a man in that situation to give some thought to the essential decencies - to devote himself to making sure, not of his immediate benefit, but of his ultimate reputation.’
      • ‘Still, those of us who believe in the importance of fundamental human rights and decencies have reasons aplenty for optimism.’
      • ‘Yet the rejection of elemental decencies and self-respect on which their society is predicated amounts to a collapse of civilisation.’
      • ‘In his term as Home Secretary between 1965 and 1967 and, to a lesser extent, from 1974 to 1976, Jenkins set about the destruction of the entire legislative underpinning of the fundamental decencies of British society.’
      • ‘What can politics do when a growing number of families fail to teach their children a set of common decencies?’
      • ‘That's the dreadful part to me - so much dying: family unity, peace to live one's own life, the ordinary decencies of everyday life, hopes and ambitions.’
      • ‘Many dirt-poor electors, who might think the Democrats offer them some short-term material gain, vote Republican in defence of traditional decencies.’
      • ‘This is not entirely paradoxical, since Orwell saw socialism as all about preserving traditional decencies.’
      • ‘Conversation around the table in the Servants' Hall in Blandings was seldom subversive, since Beach and Mrs Twemlow, the housekeeper, were there to see that the decencies were observed.’
      • ‘He shakes his head at the thought of these bygone decencies now fallen into desuetude.’
      • ‘‘The root cause of anti-social behaviour,’ Field says, ‘stems from the failure of some families to promote a set of common decencies, which centre on a proper consideration of others.’’
  • 2decenciesThings required for a reasonable standard of life.

    ‘I can't afford any of the decencies of life’
    • ‘Factory farming has no traditions, no rules, no codes of honor, no little decencies to spare for a fellow creature.’
    • ‘In fact, he is a nationalist who believes an independent Scotland is the only way to preserve the British decencies he grew up with - good housing, good health care and good libraries.’


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘appropriateness, fitness’): from Latin decentia, from decent- ‘being fitting’ (see decent).