What is the Definition of Courtesy?


Courtesy is a term that comes from courteous, an adjective that allows us to name attentive, affable and restrained people.

Specifically, this meaning emanates from many centuries ago when the Cortes were the most important centers at a political and social level. In those, which were under the orders of the kings, there were also officers and vassals who were subordinate to those. Thus, when any of these men believed that they behaved well, they were called courteous and the quality they had to be so was what was called courtesy.

According to, it is the demonstration of a subject that shows affection, respect or attention towards another individual.

For example: “Please accept this free glass of champagne: it’s a courtesy of the house”, “Could you show a little courtesy to my friends? You didn’t even say hello when you entered”, “The actor once again showed his courtesy by greeting each of his followers who were waiting at the door of the theater”.

Courtesy, therefore, is an expression of good manners or the recognition of social norms that are considered correct or adequate.

In addition to all of the above, we have to underline that there is what is known as courtesy phrases. Of them we could say that they are set expressions that are used quite frequently and that it is considered that whoever uses them is demonstrating his good manners and also his respect for the person with whom he is speaking.

In this way, we find a great variety of courtesy phrases, where the following take special relevance:
• Sorry.
• Sorry for the inconvenience.
• Good morning, good afternoon, good evening…
• Please.
• Thank you very much.
• It is a pleasure to meet you.

Broadly speaking, these are some of the most frequent and most useful courtesy phrases in contact with other people. However, it should be noted that they are also known by the name of courtesy formulas.

To treat someone with courtesy, it is essential to follow these rules:
• Treat them as we would like to be treated ourselves.
• Avoid attitudes or expressions that may be offensive.
• Be friendly and polite.
• Do not interrupt him when he is talking.
• Actively listen to him and do not make fun of his opinions.

Importantly, politeness is a cultural phenomenon: what is considered polite in one society may be rude or absurd in another.

In this sense, the example of burps in Japan can be mentioned, which are a sign of good manners after a meal since it shows that you have made good use of it. In the Western world, on the other hand, belching is considered to be in bad taste.

Something similar occurs with the fact of chewing gum, tolerated in informal settings (in the middle of a sports game, in a meeting of teenagers, etc.) and condemned in formal meetings.

It is possible to distinguish between negative courtesy (linked to courtesy: “Could you hand me that book, if it’s not too much trouble?”, “If you don’t mind, I’ll sit in this chair”) and positive courtesy (which seeks to establish a positive link between two parties).