An aristocrat, model, steward… will learn about walking, sitting, behaving, etc. according to a certain etiquette.

I am not talking about protocol, conversation and etiquette in general - just the physical aspects (e.g. sitting upright, balancing the body a certain way when you walk, etc.)

So if one wants to learn to do that, one takes lessons in ______.

  • The French word for this is maintien (as in maintien du corps) : cours de maintien, professeur de maintien

  • Google and deepl suggest maintenance course or retention course but I think that's silly.

  • I am thinking about composure, bearing, poise, but these sound to me like qualities rather than crafts. Does it not sound weird to take "lessons in bearing" or "lessons in poise"?

Any flavour of English (US, UK…) would do for me. It could also be that there is no equivalent of the French word in English.


3 Answers 3


I would suggest deportment. Oxford Dictionaries says that the meaning of the way a person stands and walks, particularly as an element of etiquette is a particularly British usage. My old French dictionary gives it as one of the translations of maintien.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 19:10
  • Déportement is mostly unknown in modern French but when it is, the meaning is always negative, more like bad behavior or move away. It ceased to have the neutral maintien meaning around the 16th century. Your French dictionary must be really old ;-)
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 0:02
  • 1
    @Jlliagre It's a French-English dictionary. I meant that it translates maintien with the English word deportment! Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 8:01
  • Ah, ok. That makes more sense!
    – jlliagre
    Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 12:53

In English, maintien is called posture: The idea is to have good or proper posture.

Also, there is good bearing, to have good bearing but that is not good for a course name and is old fashioned

The modern term for that is to carry oneself:
X will learn how to carry themselves.

In the 19th c. one would have said: good or proper carriage.

composure is for job interviews and means not to lose one's cool, poise is generally associated with ladies and good bearing is how a person carries him or herself in general.

Posture Training

posture training

  • 4
    The English word posture says nothing about it being proper. You are having to qualify it with an adjective to make that clear. But deportment specifically does commonly include the meaning of etiquette, and so it doesn't normally require an adjective. Commented May 26, 2020 at 16:43
  • 1
    That's not how I interpret what was asked (emphasis and addition mine): "I am not talking about protocol, conversation and etiquette in general - just the physical aspects [of protocol, conversation, and etiquette]." Commented May 26, 2020 at 16:52
  • 4
    @JasonBassford Deportment does not work here: it is old fashioned, precious, passé and literary (except maybe in certain British circles) and inappropriate for the name of a course in English in our times. I am having a very hard time with you all (you, Kate. the upvoters and the OP). No one uses the word deportment seriously or other than tongue in cheek today. Crikey, mate. Who the heck would upvote it?
    – Lambie
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 18:39
  • 4
    @Lambie The OP needs a word for what an aristocrat or steward learns... Courses in this are an old-fashioned thing more likely to be taken by the upper class. If the word sounds old-fashioned or precious, that's because of the nature of the thing, not the word.
    – Rosie F
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 3:55
  • 2
    @RosieF Exactly — the context of my post is to write fiction about an aristocrat in training, so an old-fashioned-sounding word will fit in nicely. I'm happy with both good posture and deportment. I didn't think my question would cause a debate, but it has been a very interesting read!
    – mcadorel
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 12:21

For some reason the answer


has been deleted.

"Deportment" is correct, but for 99.9% of English-speakers it is an archaic, "intellectual" fancy term.

(Indeed - 70% of English speakers would assume "deportment" is one of those "fancy French words" that intellectual posh people use, like "bon appetit" or "say lah vee" or "sauce".)

Given that "deportment" is way outside the general intellectual / vocabulary range, indeed "poise" is a great choice - "Jane has poise" has the exact sense the OP wants.

Note too that simply "bearing" works.

(You often hear "military bearing", Steve has military bearing.

And there's an idiomatic phrase, the way he holds himself, and also the way he carries himself.

I appreciate OP is actually asking for the "art of..." the system and effort towards poise, bearing.

This concept literally does not exist in the anglophone sphere.

(Even the concept of "éleve", raise a child, is completely different. In French it means steward, herd, form - in the anglophone sphere it means "the party who pays for rent and food while the human moves from 1 yr to 18 yrs of age". You can't really translate "élever un enfant" to "raise a child", you have to go to "pastoral care" or "formed the man..." or such.)

Exactly as the OP says,

I am thinking about composure, bearing, poise, but these sound to me like qualities rather than crafts. Does it not sound weird to take lessons in bearing or lessons in poise ?

The nearest concept in English is "finishing school". In stories when a typically 17 yr old female is "sent to finishing school" (which would be either in (a) Paris or (b) "Switzerland") she is taught how to "walk with a book on her head" (you know?) which is the closest concept in the anglophone sphere.

In the deep South in the US, there are still a few clubs, courses, usually labelled something like "Miss Jane's Manners for Young Ladies" or indeed using the word "deportment" (recalling there is still some Frenchish language kicking about in the South) ... "Miss Jane's deportment classes". Instead of say a dance class or soccer on Saturday mornings, youngsters will go to Miss Jane's and literally do the book on the head thing, be drilled in posture, and indeed have a table meal where you learn formal table manners.

  • 3
    Not all concepts are one word. And I would be careful to say it does not exist "in the anglophone sphere" (English-speaking world). And also, I would be careful to state what 70% of English speakers would say about the word deportment. How can you possibly know that? Enfin, faut pas penser que tu es la seule qui parle deux langues.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 16:24

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