Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Debonair - Of Good Air

James Stewart: a man of famously good disposition


Adjective & noun. Also debonnair, debonaire. Middle English.
[Old French debonaire (modern d├ębonnaire), from de bon aire of good disposition.]

A1 adj. obsolete. Of a gentle disposition, meek, gracious, courteous. ME-L17

A2 adj. Pleasant in manner, affable, urbane,; cheerful, carefree, unembarrassed. E18

B1 noun. obsolete. A courteous being or person. Only in LME

B2 noun. Debonair character or disposition. LME-M18

One might think of debonair as simply denoting style, perhaps with a dash of suave confidence and charisma thrown in. It runs deeper than that, however, for to be truly de bon aire, a gentleman must also be of gentle disposition, courteous, gracious, and a thoroughly corking chap to be around. Which is rather like the word itself; debonair could, with its cultured French roots, think rather too much of itself. Never a word to cause a scene, however, it lets you spell it debonnair, debonaire or debonair, all without making the slightest fuss and still looking spiffingly ab fab at the end of it. What an absolute peach of a word.

Do please leave your airiest comments in the box below.


  1. The picture looks just like my Dad when he was twenty seven. Same qualities too.

    1. It took a while finding this picture. There are a lot of debonair characters from this period, but I wanted to find one that is both debonair in looks and style but, more importantly, debonair in personality. Apparently, James Stewart had it all.