What is the difference between comportment and deportment?

I have tried looking up a comparison, but with very little results. The few discussions I found were contradictory. I also tried looking them up individually to do my own comparison. However, the definitions I found were almost indistinguishable. Even the example sentences made them seem like they could be used interchangeably.


Both comportment and deportment denote conduct, demeanor, and behavior.

Deportment, however, seems to be reserved for a specific aspect of conduct, demeanor, and behavior, and that is physical bearing. In other words, deportment denotes how you hold or carry yourself.

We associate a stiff and dignified deportment with soldiers at attention before their superior officers, for example ("Ten-hut!").

Similarly, we associate relatively stiff and dignified deportment of people at special and particularly serious and somber occasions, such as swearing-in ceremonies, inaugurations, funerals, graduations, military parades, even job interviews.

On the other hand, comportment is the more general or generic of the two terms, and while the term is not without an element of bearing, that bearing is a reflection of good manners and effective interpersonal skills. Those skills could involve, for example, observing the appropriate amount of physical distance between yourself and others, what we often call "personal space."

A person with good comportment would neither get too close nor remain at a distance, depending, of course, on what propriety says is "just the right distance."

Here is where there might be overlap in the two terms. If propriety demands that good comportment requires a respectful distance between people, more than the distance between two close friends, for example, then the deportment of the person who is demonstrating good comportment would carry himself a little stiffly, with a respectful bearing.

Some examples:

  • "The fourth-grader's teacher gave him high marks for comportment. He was a well-mannered child who played well with others."

  • "The little girl's stiff deportment while in the presence of the headmaster changed quickly once she rejoined her classmates."

  • "The new employee made a point of having excellent comportment, especially when her immediate supervisor was in the room."

  • "At the Medal of Honor ceremony, the decorated Marine's deportment was exemplary, despite his need of a crutch to ambulate."


Comportment is more than mere display. It is an unconscious outward expression of one's inner being. By considering someone's comportment you may guess at their self-esteem, their consideration for others and their mental and spiritual well-being. It is, according the to the Field Magazine (June 2014), the only true sign of a gentleman.

Deportment is merely how a person carries himself (or herself) physically. It can be taught and put on for 'special occasions'.


Comportment is dignified deportment .

  • 1
    See my comment to the Q.
    – Martin F
    Jan 18 '14 at 19:04
  • @martinf see my comment to the Q.
    – Argot
    Jan 20 '14 at 11:12
  • @Argot Sources should be included in the answer given; not in a comment to the question. Jun 4 '14 at 14:30

Is I possible that the difference may be found in the prefixes?....."com" and "de"?

If so, then would COMportment be the general rule of behavioral or "code".....and the DEportment would be an individual's behavior under that code?

If I recall correctly, it was "DEportment" that appeared on our report cards in grade school in the thirties....we were graded on that also.


The root word of "comportment" is "compose," so the behavioral connotation is something like "make up," including psychological attributes such as "attitude.

The root word of "deportment is "depose," so it refers to physical conduct.

  • I'd question that etymology. I think the root of both deportment and comportment is a middle french version of porter, which means to carry -- or in this case carry oneself.
    – gorlux
    May 29 '20 at 4:54

deportment: strictly refers to outward physical turn out of a person; i.e. clean and properly fitting dress, shined shoes, adequate hair-cut, good manicure, etc.

comportment: a person's mannerisms and behavior; public display of erratic behavior, lacking self control especially in speech, etc.

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