aesthetic

adjective
aes·​thet·​ic | \es-ˈthe-tik, is-, British usually ēs-\
variants: also US esthetic or aesthetical or US esthetical \ -​ti-​kəl \

Definition of aesthetic 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of, relating to, or dealing with aesthetics or the beautiful aesthetic theories

b : artistic a work of aesthetic value

c : pleasing in appearance : attractive … easy-to-use keyboards, clear graphics, and other ergonomic and aesthetic features …— Mark Mehler

2 : appreciative of, responsive to, or zealous about the beautiful also : responsive to or appreciative of what is pleasurable to the senses his aesthetic sensibility

3 : done or made to improve a person's appearance or to correct defects in a person's appearance aesthetic plastic surgery

aesthetic

noun
aes·​thet·​ic | \es-ˈthe-tik, is-, British usually ēs-\
variants: or less commonly esthetic

Definition of aesthetic (Entry 2 of 2)

1 aesthetics also esthetics plural in form but singular or plural in construction : a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste and with the creation and appreciation of beauty

2 : a particular theory or conception of beauty or art : a particular taste for or approach to what is pleasing to the senses and especially sight modernist aesthetics staging new ballets which reflected the aesthetic of the new nation— Mary Clarke & Clement Crisp

3 aesthetics also esthetics plural : a pleasing appearance or effect : beauty appreciated the aesthetics of the gemstones

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Other Words from aesthetic

Adjective

aesthetically or less commonly esthetically \ -​ti-​k(ə-​)lē \ adverb

The Singular (Or Plural) Art of Aesthetics

Noun

The noun aesthetic is often found used in its plural form. In the plural form, aesthetics can refer to the theory of art and beauty—and in particular the question of what makes something beautiful or interesting to regard:

Although he could extemporize animatedly about the history of the valve seat grinder, or the art of ropemaking, or how long it took to manually drill blast holes into a deposit of coal, aesthetics were another matter. The unlikely beauty of his rusty treasures defied elaboration.
Donovan Hohn, Harper’s, January 2005

This sense is sometimes encountered in constructions that treat it as singular:

With the removal of the studio packages, those cinema owners still providing double features began exploring less arbitrary and more justified pairings of films. The double feature became a special element of movie houses concentrating on the presentation of classic and art films. And this is where an aesthetics of the double feature emerges.
Chadwick Jenkins, PopMatters, 16 Aug. 2016

So Sontag was wrong to describe camp as an "unserious, 'aesthete's' vision." Aesthetics is always serious when agreed-upon interpretations are changed or stolen or emptied out.
Dave Hickey, Harper's, December 2009

A word that follows a similar pattern is poetics, (which also happens to be the title of a work by Aristotle focusing on literary theory and discourse):

A poetics of film, he has argued, seeks to reveal the conventions that films use to achieve their effects-and cognitive explanations provide insight into how and why filmic conventions, like shot-reverse-shot or empathy close-ups, produce the effects they do.
Alissa Quart, Lingua Franca, March 2000

As a plural noun, aesthetics can also be used as a synonym for beauty:

For reasons of economy and aesthetics, though, most of the house was stick built and is perfectly cozy without any elaborate beam work.
Andrew Vietze, Down East, May 2003

Examples of aesthetic in a Sentence

Adjective

My generation has an annoying penchant for treating luxuries as necessities and turning guilty pleasures into aesthetic and even moral touchstones. — Terrence Rafferty, GQ, October 1997 Whereas the essence of Proust's aesthetic position was contained in the deceptively simple yet momentous assertion that "a picture's beauty does not depend on the things portrayed in it." — Alain de Botton, How Proust Can Change Your Life, 1997 I suppose that jazz listening and prizefight watching are my two most passionate avocations, and this is largely so because the origins of my aesthetic urges are in the black working class. — Gerald Early, "The Passing of Jazz's Old Guard: … ," in The Best American Essays 1986, Elizabeth Hardwick & Robert Atwan, editors1986 There are practical as well as aesthetic reasons for planting trees. making aesthetic improvements to the building

Noun

Aesthetics is an important part of Greek philosophy. the aesthetics of the gemstones
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Among them was Bernadette Corporation, a shadowy and amorphous collective that has attained cult status and which, 25 years on, continues to have influence on both aesthetic and conceptual levels. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "Notes from the Underground: With a New Book Out, Bernadette Van-Huy Tracks Her Evolution from Bernadette Corporation to Now," 5 Nov. 2018 Soft textiles, such as sheepskin, wool, and mohair, are a necessity in cold climates, and keep the aesthetic paired down, but add some visual interest. Sienna Fantozzi, House Beautiful, "Everything You Need To Know About Scandinavian Design," 18 Sep. 2018 This new map, created by a trio of researchers from across the U.S. and Australia, improves on the design of the Robinson projection by preserving its aesthetic appeal while also correctly proportioning the continents. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Feast Your Eyes on "Equal Earth," the New and More Accurate World Map," 5 Sep. 2018 Council President Mark Harek questioned whether the new treatment would have the same aesthetic as the current brick pavers that provide a boundary for the downtown district. Carrie Napoleon, Post-Tribune, "Highland expected to tap funds for downtown street repairs," 12 July 2018 Accommodations follow the retro aesthetic with Rorschach ink blot carpeting and wall-size historic maps inspired by life on the road. Necee Regis, BostonGlobe.com, "Here, there, and everywhere," 10 July 2018 The two serve key roles in the business; Lawrence focuses on the creative aspect such as what music is played, the scent, and the overall aesthetic of the hotel rooms. Montana Couser, The Root, "Howard Grads Do It For the Culture With Homage Hospitality Hotels," 3 July 2018 The recent show was a continuation of Simons’ obsession with glossying up the Midnight Cowboy aesthetic for a more expensive contemporary audience. Liz Raiss, GQ, "Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio Are Shooting a New Movie or a Balenciaga Ad Campaign," 28 June 2018 Norwegian claimed the county was choosing a firm that would be friendlier to the county’s bottom line — the winning bid proposed an $81 million design, not $100 million — but at the expense of the aesthetic appeal of the building. Chabeli Herrera, miamiherald, "Norwegian has the green light: An all-glass, modern new terminal is coming to PortMiami | Miami Herald," 11 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

One can imagine letting the simple aesthetic of Kreuz Market inform your feast: Maybe this is the year to leave grandma’s china in the cupboard, and instead set the table with sheets of butcher paper—cutlery optional. Elizabeth G. Dunn And Matthew Kronsberg, WSJ, "The Battle for Thanksgiving Heats Up," 31 Oct. 2018 On Twitter, many were upset that Slimane had so drastically changed the aesthetic of Celine. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Hedi Slimane’s Celine Is Here and It Looks Completely Different," 28 Sep. 2018 Donatella’s iconic style is at the heart of the design aesthetic of Versace. Ana Colón, Glamour, "Michael Kors Is Buying Versace for $2 Billion," 25 Sep. 2018 There’s also so much more about how the internet can be presented onscreen, including a chat about the aesthetics of YouTube. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Eighth Grade director Bo Burnham on what most movies get wrong about the internet," 25 Aug. 2018 In her letter, Strouse suggested property owners spend the money on improving the aesthetics of their properties, shopping at a local business, or eating a family meal at a local restaurant. Michaelle Bond, Philly.com, "For real?! Bucks County town sends budget-surplus checks to residents," 5 July 2018 The use of the ‘fingertip method’ Proehl says some receivers are now taught to catch the ball with their fingertips, or are at least enamored by the prospects of it—the silent woosh, the aesthetic of it. Conor Orr, SI.com, "The NFL’s Wide Receiver Crisis," 10 Apr. 2018 The aesthetic of the collection (the campaign’s face is Christy Turlington) pays homage to Lilla Hyttnäs, the home of 19th-century Swedish painter Carl Larsson and his wife, Karin, an interior designer. Sara Holzman, Marie Claire, "Make Room in Your Closet for H&M's Latest Sustainable Clothing Collection," 9 Apr. 2018 An online survey is currently collecting input on potential projects that could impact the aesthetics of Tomball with architectural, landscape and signage standards. Mayra Cruz, Houston Chronicle, "Tomball moves forward on plans to annex 375 acres; seeks feedback on projects," 3 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'aesthetic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of aesthetic

Adjective

1797, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1822, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for aesthetic

Adjective

borrowed from German ästhetisch "pertaining to taste or discernment," borrowed from New Latin aestheticus, borrowed from Greek aisthētikós "of sense perception, sensitive, perceptive," from aisthētós "sensible, perceptible" (verbal adjective of aisthánomai, aisthánesthai "to perceive, take notice of, understand," going back to *awis-th-, from *awis-, base of Greek aḯein "to perceive, hear" + -th-, resultative noun suffix) + -ikos -ic entry 1 — more at audible entry 1

Note: German aesthetisch/ästhetisch (New Latin aestheticus) was initially promulgated as a philosophical term in the work of Alexander Baumgarten (1714-62) and subsequently by Immanuel Kant.

Noun

borrowed from German Ästhetik, borrowed from New Latin aesthetica, from feminine of aestheticus aesthetic entry 1 — more at -ics

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Statistics for aesthetic

Last Updated

12 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for aesthetic

The first known use of aesthetic was in 1797

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More Definitions for aesthetic

aesthetic

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of aesthetic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of or relating to art or beauty

aesthetic

noun

English Language Learners Definition of aesthetic (Entry 2 of 2)

: a set of ideas or opinions about beauty or art

aesthetics : the study of beauty especially in art and literature

: the artistic or beautiful qualities of something

aesthetic

adjective
aes·​thet·​ic | \es-ˈthe-tik \

Kids Definition of aesthetic

: relating to beauty and what is beautiful They made aesthetic improvements to the building.

Other Words from aesthetic

aesthetically \ -​i-​kə-​lē \ adverb The garden has an aesthetically pleasing design.

aesthetic

adjective
aes·​thet·​ic | \es-ˈthe-tik, British usually ēs- \

Medical Definition of aesthetic 

: done or made to improve a person's appearance or to correct defects in a person's appearance aesthetic plastic surgery Dentists are still drilling and filling, but the fastest growing part of the practices are aesthetic procedures, such as bleaching teeth and using tooth-colored material for fillings …— Sarah Skidmore, The San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 May 2005

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