For example, if used in a sentence like this, "The hills beyond, comely in the light of the sunset, seemed farther away than before."

I tend to think of it's meaning simply as being 'the right way, in the right place and time'... Communicating a certain basic beauty and symmetry.

"Comely" seems to be little used these days, and I'm curious to know how people interpret it. Does it depend heavily on context and if other adjectives are used?

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, Drew, AndyT, David, Davo Sep 11 '17 at 13:37

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  • The King James Version of the Bible includes the word "comely" at least 16 times. The word means different things in different passages (see biblegateway.com/quicksearch/…), but the basic idea in each passage is of something or someone that is attractive, appealing, fitting, apt, or to use a modern phrase, "easy on the eyes." – rhetorician Sep 11 '17 at 0:39
  • Have you looked up "comely" in a dictionary? That should tell you the probably interpretations. – AndyT Sep 11 '17 at 9:43

For me (a native Australian English speaker), the most common usage of "comely" is to refer to a woman. The image that comes to mind is an attractive or pretty woman, but nothing particularly special - it doesn't extend to 'beautiful' or 'sexy'. More, a warm and friendly, approachable attractive. This matches the Oxford Dictionary of English's definition:

(typically of a woman) pleasant to look at; attractive: the comely Italian actress Valeria Golino.
• agreeable; suitable: a comely specimen.

I think that using this about hills is just extending the usage somewhat figuratively. I think the hills in your text are attractive, appealing, warm and the use of comely indicates the slight yearning that they induce in the narrator.

So - I would agree with "basic beauty and symmetry" but I would disagree with "the right way, in the right place and time".

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