I am looking for a synonym for the adjective "professional" as it is sometimes used to mean "of high quality" or "projecting confidence & skill" when describing the perception of a group of people by the public.

I'm in a musical group that strives to put forth a "professional" image in terms of musical quality, visual appearance, and interaction with the public during and after a performance. But, since our members are not paid, we are not professionals in the strict sense. I sometimes have to advise our members how to conduct themselves, so I'm looking for a good word to use in place of saying "be professional" or "that looks professional". Obviously I don't want to say "look amateurish", even though we are, in fact, amateurs.

I appreciate the answers suggested below which might be useful. We're not a grunge band; the group is a Japanese taiko drumming group which is supposed to operate with a measure of self-discipline, so 'classy' might be suitable. To give some specific examples of where I would normally use "professional": 1. "Chewing gum in public makes us look unprofessional." and 2. "Having a dedicated email address with our group name looks more professional than @hotmail.com or @gmail.com". The reason I'm looking for alternatives is that I once made a suggestion that the group do something "professionally" only to have one member (who has a contrary and difficult personality) snarkily reply, "We're not a professional group."

  • 1
    didn't you just give several phrases that you could use, including "professional?"
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 20:28
  • "Professional" seems to have become so much a signifier of class that you might as well just settle for "classy." It is wonderfully odd when you think about it, how amateur just a century ago carried higher-class connotations than professional, but now that has completely reversed. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 20:39
  • Would "expert" work? It allows you to refer to the skill of your non-professionals without the implication that it's expertise they're paid for.
    – user867
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 1:03
  • Not a noun but using an adjective, you could tell your group members to be couth (Cultured, refined, and well mannered).
    – vickyace
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 18:11

5 Answers 5


The figurative sense of professional that you describe is perfectly fine, as long as you're careful how you use it--for example, you can describe yourselves as "projecting a professional appearance."

If that's not a satisfactory answer, consider using different words in different contexts: you have a refined appearance, give a polished performance, are classy in your interactions with the public, and responsible in your dealings with booking agents.


professionalism http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/professionalism

This gives you the professional style you are looking for without the common connotation of being paid for your services to make a living (although it can still mean that).

Other alternatives:




honed craftsmanship/craft/craft-work


The phrase top tier (sometimes top-tier) is often used to describe someone or something that demonstrates a high level within its field, regardless of whether there is payment for the goods or services rendered.

Of the highest level or quality

Similarly, top-notch.


Maybe some combinations of these:



of a type superior in quality or degree; first-rate: a high-class hotel.



of high class, rank, or grade



adjective 26. Informal. of high quality, integrity, status, or style: class players on a mediocre team.


I really think that the type of band has to factor into this. I mean, I don't know any grunge bands or punks bands who want to call themselves "classy."

I think a good word would be one that suggest the band is on the rise, here are some:


up-and-com·ing [uhp-uhn-kuhm-ing]

likely to succeed; bright and industrious: an up-and-coming young executive.


e·merge verb (used without object), e·merged, e·merg·ing. 1.to come forth into view or notice, as from concealment or obscurity: a ghost emerging > from the grave; a ship emerging from the fog.


ris·ing 1. going up, increasing, or sloping upward.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.