The term gentleman in its original and strict signification, denoted a well-educated man of good family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

 and distinction, analogous to the Latin generosus (its invariable translation in English-Latin documents). In this sense, the word equates with the French gentilhomme ("nobleman"), which latter term was, in Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

, long confined to the peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

. The word gentry
Gentry denotes "well-born and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past....

derives from the old term Adel, but without the strict technical requirements of those traditions, such as quarters of nobility
Quarters of nobility
Quarters of nobility is an expression used in the bestowal of hereditary titles and refers to the number of generations in which noble status has been held by a family regardless of whether a title was actually in use by each person in the ancestral line in question.For example, a person having...


The taste of beauty, and the relish of what is decent, just and amiable, perfects the character of the gentleman and the philosopher. And the study of such a taste or relish will, as we suppose, be ever the great employment and concern of him who covets as well to be wise and good, as agreeable and polite.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711), "Miscellany III".