"at the summit proper in December"


Senior Member
(...) This brief meeting was significant in two respects: it was able to discuss and reach broad agreement on the policy matters that should be debated at greater lenght at the [summit proper] in December; and the (...)
(The community of Europe - by Derek Urwin)

The meaning should be clear enough.

I would like to ask if this construction with "proper" - that in my eyes is a bit peculiar - is something that is common in English? I believe it's the first time I see it. It appertains to a high language register, no?
  • I believe it is more common in BE than AE. The "brief meeting" was apparently a "mini-summit" to discuss what would be on the agenda of the "actual summit" (or "summit proper".) I would tend to say "actual summit" or "summit itself" rather than "summit proper", but I certainly understand the meaning of "summit proper."

    There are a few phrases that show up in AE that use this construction. "In the city proper" is one of them. It is used to distinguish the part of the city that is actually within its city limits as opposed to the larger sprawl of the metropolitan area.

    In general terms, though, I would say that "xxx proper" would be avoided in favor of some other word in AE. It has a BE ring to it, I think, to our ears.

    I would definitely consider it to be in a high language register.
    Ok, great answer, thank you! - I actually wanted to ask if there were other (more) typical cases where you'd use "xxx proper".

    "In the city proper" has a nice ring to it, will try to pick that up.
    I have heard of proper to describe the medical school years as opposed to the pre-medical school (undergraduate) years: "medicine proper".


    • He did his pre-med at Yale and medicine proper at Harvard.
    However, it may be better style, in AE, to avoid medicine proper, and to specify his undergraduate major if he had one.

    • He has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Yale and a medical degree from Harvard.
    But I agree with JamesM, medicine proper seems "high register," possibly BE or old usage.
    Ok, great answer, thank you! - I actually wanted to ask if there were other (more) typical cases where you'd use "xxx proper".

    I enjoy reading about architecture, not that I know much about it. I do see it used in architectural descriptions. "Between the great hall and the sanctuary proper lies a set of four steps, signifying the separation of the mundane from the sacred." Something like that... :)

    Or even in a more "modern" context, "Tenants and visitors have access to the entrance lobby at all hours. However, access to the building proper is restricted to tenants carrying security cards, outside of normal business hours."