• To alter a residential or commercial neighborhood such that it becomes more attractive to wealthier, middle class individuals
  • To refine someone's personality, habits, or way of life


Gentrify is an important word in contemporary sociology. Many people are worried about the ways that higher rents and prices can effect working class populations when middle class persons gentrify previously low rent neighborhoods. Of course, if you're not a sociologist, you may not discuss that specific topic very often, but you may still find opportunity to employ gentrify in conversation. Let's say you notice that the old downtown area in your town, which was previously ill kempt and populated mostly by rundown pawn shops and liquor stores, is looking much better maintained and now has some attractive specialty shops. You could aptly summarize your observations by noting, "Hey, it looks like they're starting to gentrify downtown a bit."

Gentrify can also refer to the act of causing someone to become more dignified and refined. For example, let's say your cousin Stacy brings her new boyfriend to a family meal, and he uses the table cloth to wipe his mouth. In this distressing situation, you might lean over to your Uncle Al and remark: "It looks like Stacy is going to need to gentrify that one!" After all, if you're going to insult someone, it's always better to do it with an impressive vocabulary.

Example: I doubt that a couple well-to-do families will be enough to really gentrify that neighborhood.

Example: Celicia's new job in a refined corporate environment will probably gentrify her quickly.


Gentrify was first used in English in the early 1970's. It was coined in sociology as a term to describe phenomena in which neighborhoods were renovated to become more attractive to middle class persons, such that the original, lower class inhabitants could no longer afford to live in those neighborhoods. Gentrify is related to the adjective gentrified which was used starting in the early 19th century to describe a person who has been elevated to a more refined position. That adjectival form derives from the combination of gentry, a person of refined status, with the suffix -fy which means "to make."

Derivative Words

Gentrifies: The present third person singular tense of gentrify indicates an immediate action of elevating an area's status.

Example: When middle class families start to move into a previously working class residential area, it often gentrifies the neighborhood.

Gentrified: This past tense of gentrify can also be used as an adjective describing something which has been renovated to middle class standards.

Example: The growing popularity of city apartments among the middle class eventually gentrified some of the inner city neighborhoods.

Example: Clarice could hardly recognize the newly gentrified suburban area as the street where she had grown up.

Gentrifying: This present participle or gerund form of gentrify refers to a continuing act of middle class renovation or describes someone or something which gentrifies.

Example: The smaller, more expensive specialty stores began the process of gentrifying the downtown area.

Example: The gentrifying new apartments caused the neighborhoods rent rates to increase.

Gentrification: Gentrification is a noun referring to the process through which a location is gentrified. This is the term typically used to describe the phenomenon of increased property values, and hence the displacement of lower-income families or small businesses, in urban neighborhoods.

Example: Although Clive was sad to see the neighborhood where he had grown up change so dramatically, he was grateful to be able to sell his house for a much higher price due to the gentrification of the area.

In Literature

From "Bring on the Hipsters" in The Economist

The bigger problem for most American cities, says Mr Butler, is not gentrification but the opposite: the concentration of poverty.

This February 2015 article makes the case that it has been largely beneficial to the poor when American inner city neighborhoods are gentrified.


  • When a neighborhood is gentrified,
    It always makes the rent be high.


Sociology, Real Estate, Middle Class, Class Relations

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of gentrify. Did you use gentrify in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.