Looking for an adjective or noun to describe people being over cautious to be polite or considerate to others, and often expecting or causing others to respond or act in a similar way.

For example,

  • Holding door for people behind while the other is still meters away.
  • While walking on the road, constantly check behind and pose to give way to others while people behind have no intention to overtake but stressed to do so due to the pose.


Normally these people see themselves very positively. They believe they are behaving at a higher social moral standard than others, and expect others to behave accordingly too.

The word I'm looking for should be:

  1. Negative, as the behavior is not very pleasing.
  2. Reveal the undesired expectation imposed on others to behave equally polite, considerate or even "elegant".
  • 4
    "Overly polite", is what I would use.
    – NVZ
    Aug 9, 2016 at 7:43
  • Are you looking to describe people that an outside observer would still describe as polite or someone who is already awkward in the attempt to be that polite? Especially with the door example, the result is likely making everyone a bit uncomfortable. (Forcing the other person to walk faster, etc)
    – Helmar
    Aug 9, 2016 at 14:52
  • You probably meant pause rather than pose? Although the person is possibly posing while pausing...
    – Joce
    Aug 9, 2016 at 15:41
  • @Joce I'd prefer pose here as it's the gesture that creates stress to people behind, while the person may pause for any other purpose.
    – Lee
    Aug 9, 2016 at 15:52

3 Answers 3


Obsequious fits very well your requirement 1:

Obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree: ‘they were served by obsequious waiters (Oxford dict)

You can also consider sycophantic:

Behaving or done in an obsequious way in order to gain advantage: ‘a sycophantic interview' (Oxford dict)

But both describe people looking for an advantage out of servility, rather than someone expecting the same level of over-politeness from others. Then I would rather go for unctuous:

Excessively flattering or ingratiating; oily: ‘he seemed anxious to please but not in an unctuous way'

  • These options all, to me, sound like the way someone can act towards their (supposed) superiors, rather than to people in general.
    – AndyT
    Aug 9, 2016 at 16:38
  • @AndyT: if someone takes on an attitude of excessive politeness, it becomes difficicult to distinguish it from an attitude of servility.
    – Joce
    Aug 22, 2016 at 8:23

ostentatious Though probably use as 'ostentatiously polite'


I think the word "people-pleaser" might be appropriate here.

From psychologytoday.com:

A People Pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.” You can always count on them for a favor. In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends. So far this sounds like a good thing. Unfortunately, it can be an extremely unhealthy pattern of behavior.

  • Sources, substantiations, have a look at the help center how to post good answers.
    – Helmar
    Aug 9, 2016 at 14:50

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