Courtesy VS courteousness

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

Courtesy VS courteousness

Post by nawee » Fri Aug 22, 2014 10:21 am

Hello,

If "courteousness" is the noun form of "courteous", what about "courtesy"? They are both defined as 'polite behaviour'. Is there any difference or nuance?

Thank you.

Nawee
Post actions:

Re: Courtesy VS courteousness

Post by Phil White » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:28 am

A couple of things here.

Firstly, courtesy can have one meaning that courteousness does not normally have, namely a single courteous act or gesture. This meaning comes up in phrases such as "a small courtesy", referring to a free drink before or after dinner in a hotel, or a bouquet of flowers for hotel guests and so on. You will also see it in more aggressive utterances such as "please do me the courtesy of listening ...".

Otherwise, when I read your post, I felt that there was a very subtle distinction, but I could not quite put my finger on it. After thinking long and hard, I reckon that "courteousness" tends to be used to refer to a general behaviour pattern, whereas "courtesy" describes behaviour in a given situation, thus:
  • All the staff showed the utmost courtesy during my visit.
  • Courteousness is one of the most important qualities we expect from our staff.
To put it another way, courteousness is a mindset, whereas courtesy is the behaviour that results from that mindset.

My feeling is that the distinction (if it is there at all) is by no means rigid. "Courtesy" is certainly used for all these meanings. "Courteousness" is less common and, I feel, is more generally used in the more restricted meaning.

That's just my take. See what the others think.
Post actions:
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: Courtesy VS courteousness

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Aug 23, 2014 9:44 pm

It grieves me, but I have to agree with Phil here.
Post actions:

Re: Courtesy VS courteousness

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Aug 24, 2014 1:01 pm

Well thought out Phil. You seem to have summed it up.
Post actions:
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

End of topic.
Post Reply