Definition of proper in English:



  • 1British [attributive] Denoting something that is truly what it is said or regarded to be; genuine.

    ‘she's never had a proper job’
    ‘a proper meal’
    • ‘By 332 he regarded himself as the proper ruler of the Persian empire, and after Gaugamela he was acclaimed king of Asia.’
    • ‘It will undertake projects to provide proper drinking water, waste disposal and sanitation facilities for pilgrims.’
    • ‘So for once I actually had three proper meals in a day.’
    • ‘So the killer question is: who do you regard as a proper diver?’
    • ‘His clothing is a little closer to proper formal attire, at least.’
    • ‘Now I've heard some say that these aren't proper jobs.’
    • ‘I just wanted to say that we have not forgotten the issue, and that it is a very real one that needs proper debate and consideration by all of us in the House.’
    • ‘There is no fence to separate it from the nearby kampung, and no proper external lighting.’
    • ‘So, of course, we had real jobs with proper tax codes, an optional pensions scheme, sickness cover and employee rights.’
    • ‘After eight months without a proper job I now realise that I am more myself than I have ever been and I actually quite like myself and appreciate myself more.’
    • ‘Anyway, I set up my baby on the new folding table I bought the other day and sat my keyboard chair in front of it like a proper little desk.’
    • ‘She warned that unless Dave managed to hold down a proper job he could end up crying for real over the end of their relationship.’
    • ‘Herbicides inhibit the flow of natural and synthetic auxins, which are necessary for proper plant growth.’
    • ‘Without a proper public transport system and with motor insurance being compulsory by law, young drivers are not in a position to simply take it or leave it.’
    • ‘Surely there can be no genuine democracy without proper self-determination free from the narrow minded preferences of an aggressor state.’
    • ‘And will he then adopt such tactics in his proper job, asking Interpol to police our streets if his British bobbies find they are not winning many fixtures?’
    • ‘I closed my eyes and enjoyed the moment after over two months; I had a real, tangible, proper bed.’
    • ‘No doubt, hawking is not often regarded as a proper job, but in reality, it involves minimum investment with maximum returns.’
    • ‘Two weeks after leaving the house, she confided in me that she didn't regard it as a proper album; that, she said, would come next year.’
    • ‘Many are actually ordinary middle-class citizens with proper jobs and houses.’
    real, genuine, actual, true, bona fide
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    1. 1.1[postpositive]Strictly so called; in its true form.
      ‘after this event, three countries will progress to the World Cup proper’
      • ‘Although falling outside the dates of Heritage Week proper, the Rut Walk on Sunday, September 25 is another must.’
      • ‘However, a late change of strategy saw them gamble on running the gelding in the Champion proper.’
      • ‘The visit is part of the host town programme and he will visit a number of the sporting facilities and amenities that will be used by the athletes prior to the games proper.’
      • ‘Those are sandbags being carried via military helicopter to be dropped within the flooded areas there of New Orleans proper.’
      • ‘This game is due to take place on Sunday May 4th and the Sarsfields will have to be at their very best if they hope to advance to the first round proper.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Parking will be restricted in the Village from 2.30 pm with the Parade proper scheduled to get underway at 4pm.’
      • ‘Apart from the paraphernalia near the booth there was another aspect of the launch occurring on the large video screen in Federation Square proper.’
      • ‘Having meditated on the fact that Minnesota wants for a poet laureate proper, City Pages decided to do our bit to remedy that lack.’
      • ‘While five of their boxers got through on Saturday to contest the finals proper on Sunday, none succeeded in getting the decision in the ring.’
      • ‘And we haven't been able to really put a number on, you know, those that have lost their lives in New Orleans proper.’
      • ‘It seems like there's a strip of stores and businesses three miles long, from the Michigan border into Iron Mountain proper.’
      • ‘Warrenpoint now proceed to the first round proper where they will meet Irvinestown from Fermanagh back in Clontiberet in a fortnight's time.’
      true, rightly so called
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    2. 1.2informal Used as an intensifier, especially in derogatory contexts.
      ‘a proper little do-gooder, aren't I?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She's a proper little child, getting into mischief.’
      complete, absolute, real, perfect, total, thorough, thoroughgoing, utter, out-and-out, positive, unmitigated, consummate
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  • 2[attributive] Of the required or correct type or form; suitable or appropriate.

    ‘an artist needs the proper tools’
    ‘they had not followed the proper procedures’
    • ‘They need proper medical attention and so the state government needs to establish centres which will be able to deal with complicated deliveries.’
    • ‘However, medical authorities have now claimed that the medical research leading to the finding lacks a proper scientific basis.’
    • ‘Its proper use requires moral reflection and the establishment of moral limits.’
    • ‘This procedure is often time-consuming, tedious to perform and requires proper facilities.’
    • ‘And the Government will have to work harder to get a proper regulatory framework in place if super choice is to actually happen.’
    • ‘I thought the approach that I brought to the interview was the proper one under those circumstances and at that time.’
    • ‘If you have to get up every morning and go to work, you may as well be guaranteed suitable working conditions and proper compensation.’
    • ‘In fact what we have been witnessing in recent times is an extension of the state sector under the cloak of trying to ensure proper economic competition.’
    • ‘I'd want part of my work to be giving medical attention to the rural masses that have never had proper medical facilities.’
    • ‘Without proper geographical coordinates one can not solve ‘overlapping areas’ of conflict.’
    • ‘Did Dean turn the father in to the proper legal authorities?’
    • ‘They don't know how to assess liability, what proper trail-building techniques are and what's sustainable.’
    • ‘Appropriate modification and proper implementation of a unified public health Act for the State is the need of the hour.’
    • ‘Information leaflets ask riders to make sure they have proper helmets and appropriately maintained bikes, and are experienced enough to tackle the trails.’
    • ‘There is no proper pedestrian crossing on this stretch.’
    • ‘Clearly, there has been pressure from both sides of the House for the Government to give us more time to consider whether it is proper or appropriate given the level of threat that we face.’
    • ‘And to get the proper tests done requires a strong regulatory agency.’
    • ‘Often when dealing with parts of the engine, or the hard-to-reach spots under the hood, proper tools are required.’
    • ‘According to Nietzsche, ‘art is the highest task and the proper metaphysical activity of this life’.’
    • ‘He should choose a proper distance, appropriate height and angle.’
    right, correct, accepted, orthodox, conventional, established, official, formal, regular, acceptable
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    1. 2.1According to or respecting 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’
      • ‘He dislikes dogs partly out of a sense of duty-he feels that, given his commitment to cats, it would not be quite proper for him to like dogs as well.’
      • ‘It is not proper for him to denounce other religions as false.’
      • ‘It is obviously proper for Parliament to lay down the framework within which the Judiciary operates.’
      • ‘She'd learned to ride sidesaddle, as was proper for a young lady.’
      • ‘What was not proper for women, however, could easily be enacted by the dance figures in the space of spectacle.’
      • ‘A true paragon of a British military officer, he was efficient, proper and habitually thorough.’
      • ‘We do not mean to say that they should be restricted from talking in proper seasons, but they should be taught to know when it is proper for them to cease.’
      • ‘It's very proper for the Council to watch extremely carefully what I do and what those who work with me do.’
      • ‘It is not proper for the government to keep the innocent ignorant in order to help the guilty.’
      • ‘It is proper for both parties to talk via their host about staggering their attendance times, and far preferable to one being invited and not the other.’
      • ‘He insisted that it was not proper for the court to handle the dispute before the administration had settled the matter.’
      • ‘I didn't think it was proper for me to do that, because it was really his decision.’
      • ‘It's quite proper for me to say that it would be improper for me to comment on these matters.’
      • ‘It is perfectly proper for a local paper to throw its weight behind one side in a local issue, as it is for a columnist to express a personal opinion.’
      • ‘I was taught that it's not proper for a young woman to either call a young man on the phone or ask him for a date.’
      • ‘But no, neither was proper for a young lady of noble blood, a princess especially.’
      • ‘I don't think that it is proper for me to give the details.’
      • ‘It would not be proper for one, for example, to go and visit the site and then come back and report to the rest of the jury.’
      • ‘It's not exactly proper for ladies to get involved in such things.’
      • ‘At issue was whether it was proper for the public to attend the basketball social.’
      respectable, decorous, seemly, decent, refined, ladylike, gentlemanly, genteel
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  • 3Belonging or relating exclusively or distinctively to; particular to.

    ‘the two elephant types proper to Africa and to southern Asia’
    • ‘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.’
    belonging, relating, pertaining, related, relevant, unique, peculiar
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    1. 3.1(of a psalm, lesson, prayer, etc.) appointed for a particular day, occasion, or season.
    2. 3.2archaic Belonging to oneself or itself; own.
      ‘to judge with my proper eyes’
  • 4Heraldry
    [usually postpositive] In the natural colours.

  • 5dialect, archaic (of a person) good-looking.

    ‘he is a proper youth!’
  • 6Mathematics
    Denoting a subset or subgroup that does not constitute the entire set or group, especially one that has more than one element.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Amicable numbers come in pairs in which each number is the sum of the proper divisors of the other.’
    • ‘An odd perfect number is defined to be an odd integer that is equal to the sum of its proper divisors.’
    • ‘A number is abundant if the sum of its proper divisors is greater than the number itself.’
    • ‘An aliquot part of a number is a proper quotient of the number.’


informal, dialect
  • 1Satisfactorily or correctly.

    ‘my eyes were all blurry and I couldn't see proper’
    • ‘If we all talked proper they wouldn't have to make us sound so awful.’
    1. 1.1Thoroughly.
      ‘he blotted his copybook good and proper’


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

    ‘we go to the High Mass, with plainsong propers sung by the Ritual Choir’
    • ‘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.’


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