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Indecent vs. Decent: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Updated on November 14, 2023
Indecent refers to something offensive, improper, or not conforming to societal standards, while decent implies conforming to standards of propriety, morality, or respectability.

Key Differences

Indecent suggests a lack of modesty or good taste, often linked to behavior or content that is sexually explicit or offensive. Conversely, decent implies behavior or content that is appropriate, modest, and adheres to societal norms.
The term indecent is often used to describe actions or expressions that are considered morally offensive or shocking. On the other hand, decent describes actions or expressions that are respectful, ethical, and demonstrate good character.
In the context of language, indecent refers to vulgar or obscene speech, while decent language is polite, respectful, and free from vulgarity.
When discussing attire, indecent clothing is typically seen as revealing or inappropriate for the setting, whereas decent clothing is considered suitable, modest, and respectful of social norms.
In media and entertainment, indecent material is that which is not suitable for all audiences due to explicit content, while decent material is considered appropriate and non-offensive for general viewing.

Comparison Chart

Moral Standards

Violates moral or ethical standards
Adheres to moral and ethical standards

Language Usage

Involves vulgar or obscene speech
Polite and respectful speech


Revealing or inappropriate clothing
Modest and suitable clothing

Media Content

Contains explicit or offensive material
Appropriate and non-offensive material

Social Acceptability

Often socially unacceptable or shocking
Socially acceptable and respectable

Indecent and Decent Definitions


Lacking modesty or good taste.
The indecent joke made everyone uncomfortable.


Fair and reasonable.
They offered him a decent salary for his work.


Not conforming to moral standards.
His indecent behavior was condemned by the community.


Socially acceptable or adequate.
She always dresses in a decent manner.


Offensive to standards of decency.
The movie was criticized for its indecent content.


Morally upright or good.
She is a decent person who always helps others.


Shocking or grossly offensive.
The graffiti was removed due to its indecent nature.


Conforming to standards of propriety, morality, or respectability.
He is known for his decent conduct.


Involving inappropriate or explicit sexual content.
The book was banned for its indecent descriptions.


Exhibiting dignity or respectability.
Their conversation was decent and polite.


Offensive to accepted standards of decency or modesty; lewd or vulgar
Found the movie to be indecent.


Characterized by conformity to recognized standards of propriety or morality
A respected citizen who led a decent life.
Children brought up in decent homes.


Not appropriate or becoming; unseemly
Bought up distressed properties with indecent enthusiasm.


Morally upright; moral or respectable
"the corruption that allows the unscrupulous to grow rich while decent people labor to earn an honest wage" (Amitav Ghosh).


Kind or obliging
Very decent of them to lend you money.


Are indecent expressions always vulgar?

Indecent expressions are often vulgar, but they can also simply be in bad taste or offensive.

What does indecent mean?

Indecent refers to something that is offensive, improper, or sexually explicit.

Are there laws against indecent behavior?

Yes, many jurisdictions have laws against certain types of indecent behavior, especially in public.

Is decent always a compliment?

Yes, describing someone or something as decent is generally a compliment, indicating respectability.

What does decent mean?

Decent means conforming to standards of propriety, morality, or respectability.

Can indecent also mean illegal?

Yes, indecent actions can sometimes be illegal, especially if they violate public decency laws.

Does decent behavior vary by culture?

Yes, what is considered decent behavior can differ across cultures.

Is indecent clothing subjective?

Yes, what is considered indecent clothing can vary greatly depending on cultural and personal standards.

Can indecent acts be legal?

Some indecent acts may be legal, especially if they occur in private and do not harm others.

Can a decent person make mistakes?

Yes, even decent people can make mistakes but are generally seen as having good moral character.

What is indecent exposure?

Indecent exposure refers to the illegal act of exposing one's genitals in public.

Is being decent enough to be successful?

Being decent is important, but success often requires a combination of factors including skill and effort.

Is decency a necessary trait in leadership?

Decency is often valued in leadership, as it promotes trust and respect.

Can decent refer to quality?

Yes, decent can also refer to something of acceptable or satisfactory quality.

Can businesses be described as decent?

Yes, businesses can be described as decent when they operate ethically and treat customers fairly.

Do indecent acts always offend everyone?

Not necessarily, as perceptions of indecency can vary among individuals.

Can media be censored for indecency?

Yes, media can be censored if it contains indecent material that is not suitable for all audiences.

Is decency a subjective concept?

Yes, what is considered decent can vary based on personal and cultural viewpoints.

Does decency imply honesty?

Decency often includes honesty, but it is more broadly about moral integrity and respectability.

Can indecent behavior be culturally accepted?

In some cultures, behaviors that might be seen as indecent elsewhere are more accepted.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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