(Good) Manners

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Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
I have noticed a semantic change common to a lot of languages: from the word describing a manner/ a way of doing or behaving to the prescribed, normative way of behaving. For example: the French mode (fashion), also common in Dutch and German, I believe, is based on the word for manner (une mode de vie, a lifestyle); so that old word comes to refer to a prescribed way of dressing, without adding 'good' of course !

Other examples:

Dutch fatsoen (decency - see other thread) < French façon (way)

Dutch [zij/hij heeft] stijl (s/he has style, lit., a good way of behaving or dressing) < stijl (way of doing things, style, of course)

How about your language ?

P.S.: I have a feeling there are other ways of describing this observation/ phenomenon in a better way. I'd interested to read your version.
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  • In Greek:
    «(Καλοί) τρόποι» (masculine plural)
    (Ka'li) 'tropi
    From the classical masculine noun «τρόπος» ('trŏpŏs)-->turn, direction, manner, fashion, guise which derives from the classical verb «τρέπω» ('trĕpō), Doric «τράπω» ('trāpō)-->to turn or direct towards a thing, to alter, change, shift views, from PIE base *trep- "to turn"


    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    This happens in Portuguese:

    bons modos, boas maneiras = good manners
    modos, maneiras = ways; (good) manners
    estilo = manner; (good) way to dress or behave
    forma, jeito = way
    formoso/a, jeitoso/a = good-looking
    desajeitado/a = clumsy
    enjeitado/a = abandoned


    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks, everyone, but I'd like to know what the Turkish words precisely mean (are they both descriptive and normative ?)?

    So I understand this switch from manner to good manners is fairly common, at least in Portuguese and in Greek. I am not so sure about how to interpret the Turkish words. Thanks !


    Edep means behaving according to the traditions.

    Both edepli and terbiyeli have the same suffix -li, which sort of acts like with.
    Edepli = Someone with expected/nice behaviour.
    Terbiyeli litterally means "tamed". Remember the lion tamer? =)


    In Bulgarian manners is обноски (obnoski, Slavic origin) or маниери (manieri, French origin), so good manners is добри (dobri) обноски/маниери, but sometimes only обноски is used in the meaning of "good manners", e. g. "Трябва да те науча на обноски" = "I must teach you good manners" because, obviously, bad manners aren't something to be taught.


    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    I thought of another one: "façon" is the French word for "manner", but it came to refer to decency in the Dutch "fatsoen" (a decent way of behaving oneself), as I explained, but also to a very stylish way of dressing, "fashion" in English.

    Same thing with "mode". In English a way of doing things, but in French and Dutch a normative way of dressing, "mode".

    "Behave" in English can be used descriptively, but as an imperative and in other contexts, it comes to mean: "Behave well".


    Senior Member

    tapa "manner, way (of doing something), habit"
    (hyvät) tavat "(good) manners"

    The verb tavata means "to have a habit (of doing something)".
    The adjective tavallinen "ordinary, common, usual".


    Senior Member
    The only thing I can think about in Hebrew is אופנה ['ofna] "fashion" which comes from אופן ['ofen] "way" (the figurative sense, not "road"). I assume it's a calque off of French "mode", or some other European language (German?).

    "Manners" in Hebrew has a different root - נ-מ-ס (n-m-s) which comes from an old Ancient Greek loan of "nomos":
    נימוסים [nimusim] = manners, ettiquetes.
    מנומס [menumas] = well-mannered.

    Other words for "manners":
    דרך ארץ [derex 'erets] = lit. "way/road of the earth".
    הליכות [halixot] = lit. "goings"/"walks" (the plural noun). A known example for this sense is the Jewish "Halakha" (הלכה) - the Rabbinic law on how one should live his daily life.

    "Behaving" isn't related to "manners", but it is related to a motion concept. The root is נ-ה-ג (n-h-g) which revolves around "walking something" or "guiding something":
    נהג (nahag) = "driver"
    מנהיג (manhig) = "leader" (notice the English "lead")

    So "behaving" is simply this root in the reflexive verbal pattern:
    התנהג (hitnaheg) = "behaved" (lit. "lead himself" or "walked himself")


    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    I think I got another example in Dutch about 'history', geschiedenis.

    For example: "History shows us that ..." vs. "Hij schrijft op deze manier geschiedenis " (He is writing history [figuratively speaking: things to be remembered - but history is not only about things that ought to be remembered, commemorated, there are also things that are less important, painful, etc. - and if we study them, then not to repeat the same things, on the contrary...] by doing things this way...


    Senior Member
    Hi ThomasK, your thread got me into a train of thought about parallels between uses of the word "façon", as in

    "Travail à façon" (work done as per precise directions), and the word "custom" as in "customised work" (same meaning).

    "Custom" is from the old french "coustume", from the italian "costume" (fashion, habit) which brings us back to "la mode" or fashion.

    It's all very circular, and I admit not the "better way" of derscibing the phenomenon you were looking for.

    Now about "history", there's the french expression "Pour la petite histoire..." with which you preface an explanation of how some element

    of what you're telling came to be (a history of the less important things).

    I am stumped by the etymology of "geschiedenis" because a search only leads to "Etymologie is het onderzoek naar de geschiedenis van

    woorden". No kidding ! Is there a good online source of dutch etymology ?


    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    I think you are right: we are talking about the same phenomenon. But why do you call it circular? I see the same distinction, but ... ???

    However: la petite histoire... Isn't there some ambiguity in French between story and history at work here?

    Source: etymologiebank.nl, works well!
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    Senior Member
    By circular I mean that it doesn't illustrate the "descriptive to normative" trend in your OP, it only illustrates my own rambling train of thought. I'm not a linguist, don't even know latin or greek.

    The distinction in french between story and history is rendered by having "récit", "anecdote", for "story".

    I have an example of "normative to more narrowly normative" for you, valid in english & french: "le(é)gal" and/et "loyal".
    Allegiance to a text, then to an individual, the distinction dating from the XVII th cent., I'm told.

    On Etymologiebank.nl, any entry delivers a definition, no etymology whatsoever (It's where I got the result mentioned before).

    I'll follow the progress of your "description to prescription" theory with interest.


    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Etymologiebank.nl: I don't understand, I have just looked up "geschiedenis", and I get one page full of explanations from 5 sources. Philippa is the most recent and the best, I think. No?

    (I'll be back with more comments but not today, I am afraid, maybe tomorrow evening.)


    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    When you get the definition, you need to click on it. Have you? I suppose you have but... "Niets gevonden": does happen once in a while, but not very often. Don't use conjugated verbs or plurals, that can be the cause of the problem. Of course the minutest spelling error can lead to zero result; so maybe you ought to check again. If you still have a problem, let me know and I'll send you a personal message...


    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)

    mrav (< Old Czech nrav) = custom, behavior, Panslavic word of unclear origin, cf. Russian нрав [nrav];
    mostly in plur. mravy = manners, e.g. žena lehkých mravů = lady of easy virtues (lit. of light manners);

    > adj. mravní, mravný = moral, ethical, virtuous > mravnost = morality;

    Mravy (Sitten) used to be the first item on the school report (= vysvědčení, Zeugnis), they could be (1905-1937): 1. chvalitebné (lobenswert, laudable), 2. uspokojivé (befriedigend, satisfactory), 3. zákonné (entsprechend, lawful), 4. nedosti zákonné (minder entsprechend, insufficiently lawful), 5. nezákonné (nicht entsprechend, unlawful).

    způsob = generally way, mode, e.g. tímto způsobem = this way;
    in plur. způsoby = (good) manners, e.g. nemá způsoby = s/he has no manners;

    > adj. způsobný = well-mannered, well-behaved (mostly about children);

    styl = style, a manner of doing or presenting things; originally a manner of writing < Lat./Gr. stylus = a writing utensil;
    We say "she has a style", too.

    > adj. stylový = stylish; e.g. stylový nábytek = stylish furniture;

    pejor. manýra (pl. manýry) = quirk (also in an art > manýrismus = mannerism);
    e.g. manýry filmové hvězdy = (unpleasant) manners of a movie star;
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