This paper focuses on the influence of Italian conduct manuals, as translated into English, in the second half of the sixteenth century and early seventeenth century. It approaches this task in two ways. One is to trace the rise of the term manners, and also to examine the words with which it typically cohabited, thus giving a sense of the discourses of which it was a part. The analysis reveals a dramatic rise in usage of the term in the period 1550-1624, and its role in discourses to do with social regulation, negative evaluation and moralizing. The other is to undertake a detailed comparison between Della Casa’s Galateo and Brown and Levinson (1987) in particular. The major finding here is the close similarity between the two. Along the way, the paper also airs some theoretical distinctions relating to notions of politeness, notably the distinction between first- and second-order politeness, and touches on some of the features of the social context of early modern England.