Decorum, decency, propriety, dignity, etiquette are comparable either when they mean a code of rules respecting what is right, fitting, or honorable in behavior or, more often, when they mean the quality or character of rightness, fitness, or honorableness in behavior resulting from the observance of such a code.
The first three words are somewhat literary; the last two are the most common in speech. Both decorum and decency imply that the code is based upon the nature of things or the circumstances which attend them, and therefore the rules which it embodies have their basis in nature or sound reason.
Decorum especially suggests a code of rigid rules or laws governing the behavior of civilized men under given or understood conditions.
The term may suggest also order, moderation, and a high degree of intelligibility as a basis of literary or artistic beauty.
Decency often stresses a freedom from immodesty or obscenity. It may imply a seemliness or appropriateness that is based upon the right relation of one thing to another (as of a person to his profession, rank, or condition in life or of a thing to its use or end).
Propriety stresses conformity to a standard of what is proper or correct. When used in reference to language, it implies a regard for the established meanings of words and a refusal to accept what is not countenanced by good usage.
More often the word refers to social matters and implies adherence or conformity to a code respecting conduct or manners accepted as correct, proper, and essential by either the generality or a particular class of society.
Propriety is sometimes preferred to decency when merely seemly or fitting correctness (and not conformity to convention) is implied.
Dignity (see also ELEGANCE) seldom applies directly to a code or a rule but it does often denote a state of being that arises from obedience to what one, one's class, or one's profession regards as elevated, noble, or in full accordance with his rank, status, or position, and thereby it implies governance by â code or by forces which often correspond to the decencies or proprieties.
Etiquette is the usual term for the code of manners and behavior governing one's conduct in society or in particular circumstances (as in a court or legislature).
It may replace propriety, for the conventional observance of these rules.