Curtsy vs. Courtesy – Difference & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Curtsy and courtesy are two different yet related words in English. They are easily confused because of their almost similar spelling and pronunciation. But how is courtesy related to curtsy?

Learn the difference between curtsy and courtesy in my guide. Discover the definitions and examples I provided of how to use them in sentences.

Curtsy vs. Courtesy

Curtsy and courtesy are both nouns that have different meanings. Curtsy is a noun or verb that refers to the act of bowing. Courtesy is also a noun that means respect.

Curtsy vs Courtesy Ngram
Courtesy and curtsy usage trend.

This image reveals an Ngram of curtsy vs. courtesy. Courtesy has consistently been more prevalent by approximately 50%.

What Does It Mean to Curtsy to Someone?

Grammarist Article Graphic V4 2022 12 22T201448.241

The meaning of curtsy is a formal gesture that girls make to show respect to someone. A woman places their foot in front of the other and slowly bends their knees.

We sometimes use curtsy for the male gesture, too. Men do a simple act of bowing in front of a person of authority.

Curtsy is pronounced kurt-see. Here are some examples in a sentence.

  • All-girls schools teach young ladies how to bend their knees and curtsy to royals properly.
  • There is no obligatory code of behavior when meeting the Queen of England. But many people curtsy.
  • Although Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s overly dramatic curtsy which has caused such controversy in the recent Netflix documentary about Prince Harry and her is clearly done for comedic effect, there’s no denying it’s a skill the duchess would have had to become familiar with when she married into the royal family. (The National News)
  • The gathering of royalty offered a fascinating glimpse at protocol within their circles – notably, who was required to curtsy to the Queen Consort and who was not. (Hello Magazine)

What Is Courtesy?

The definition of courtesy is respect. It can also be a gesture that shows good manners. That means curtsy can be an act of courtesy.

Courtesy is pronounced kurt-uh-see. Here are some examples in a sentence.

  • Please show courtesy to the speaker by turning off your phone.
  • Maintaining silence in the library is a form of courtesy.
  • The concept of courtesy bridges the gap between “me” and “we,” as it encourages seeing the needs and circumstances of other people and treating them with respect. (Upworthy)
  • Deputy Governor, Mr. David Archer, Jr. recently paid courtesy visits to the Departments within the Governor’s Group. In visiting the Civil Registry and Passport Office, he had the opportunity to speak with the newly-appointed Registrar General, Mrs. Tashi O’Flaherty–Maduro and her staff… (British Virgin Islands Gov)

Plural Form of Curtsy

The plural form of curtsy is curtsies. It is a regular countable noun, so its plural form requires an s at the end.

Curtsy or Curtsey in the UK

Both curtsy and curtsey are alternative spellings of each other. But the Cambridge Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary list curtsy as the correct British spelling of the word.

Curtsy and Courtesy in Conclusion

Curtsy and courtesy sound the same because they are both associated with some form of respect. Remember the key points:

  • Curtsy or curtsey is a noun or verb that refers to the act of bending one’s knees to an authority or royal.
  • Courtesy is a noun that means respect.