Prim, priggish, prissy, prudish, puritanical, straitlaced, stuffy mean excessively concerned with what one regards as proper or right.
Prim and priggish (see also COMPLACENT ) both imply an excessive and conscious fastidiousness in manners and morals that often more or less displeases an observer.
Prim, however, often suggests stiffness and preciseness of manner as well as extreme decorousness, and priggish connotes a more or less offensive, but not necessarily conscious, assumption of moral superiority, so that they are rarely interchangeable. Further, prim is often applied to the dress, words, or actions of persons but priggish is seldom referred to anything but the person or to something that directly reveals his personality.
Prissy, though sometimes very close to prim in meaning, is applied to a person who shows, or to a thing that manifests, an exaggerated sense of what is proper or precise; the term connotes sissiness but usually as a feminine concern for niceties of expression, of conduct, or of design and may imply a lack of forcefulness or virility.
Prudish implies a modesty and decorousness so marked as to seem affected or over-asserted; the term, however, seldom suggests pretense but rather an undue consciousness of propriety or fear of impropriety or an excessive sense of the importance of modesty and decorum.
Puritanical, often capitalized, may refer specifically to the religion of the Puritans especially as it showed itself in strict regulation of behavior, but in ordinary uncapitalized use it more often suggests only an excessive narrowness or illiberality in judgment (as of books, plays, or pictures), in regulation (as of manners and morals), or in narrowly determining the boundary between what is good and what is bad.
Straitlaced and stuffy are derogatory terms applicable to persons or things that are markedly puritanical or prudish; straitlaced refers more often to a person or his principles from a less subjective point of view than does stuffy, which is usually a term of contempt expressive of their effect upon the observer.