Polite vs Courteous? What’s the Difference?

When you describe someone as courteous, it means that they’re civilized and well-mannered.  On the other hand, when you say someone is polite, it means that they’re not only well-mannered, but also have empathy for the other person.

Polite and Courteous mean the same thing in most situations.The word “couteous” is a litttle bit more formal than “polite” but that is not to say that “poite” is informal.

Similarities And Differences Between Polite And Courteous

Both words can indeed mean the same thing, but they can also be considered different.  For example, someone who is polite can also be courteous by default, while someone who is courteous will also be polite for being as such.  The definition of politeness is to have respectful behavior and show behavior considerate of other people.

Since these words share such overlapping definitions, some mistake these two words for synonyms.  The key difference in both of these words is that someone who is courteous will have good manners and follow social norms set by society so they don’t offend anyone.  Those who are polite do all of this in addition to being focused on the wellbeing of others.

When both polite and courteous are used in a sentence, they’re both regarded as compliments and both pertain to manners and good, socially acceptable behavior.  The difference in definition between the both of the words may get a little muddy for some, but it’s important to distinguish that politeness means well-mannered while courteous indicates gallantry.

Examples Of Differences Between Polite And Courteous

When someone is following the rules of some sort of ceremony, they’re being polite.  If you think about it, the opposite of polite is rude.  Therefore, it would be rude to not follow the rules of the ceremony and ignore them to do whatever you wish while everyone else follows the rules.  You may even make it difficult for others to enjoy themselves, being discourteous.

When someone is not only following the rules of the ceremony that they’ve attended and additionally displays some sort of extra regard for others.  This can include doing things such as opening the door for guests who enter after them, allowing others into the bathroom before themselves and even bringing party favors to share with the hosts and party guests.

While the differences between polite and courteous aren’t huge, they’re worth noting because they both require different behaviors out of those being described as such.  Since it’s easy to be polite when being courteous, it is easy to see how someone can fit both of these characteristics simultaneously.  However, those being polite may not always be courteous.