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
: 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
staging new ballets which reflected the aesthetic of the new nation—Mary Clarke & Clement Crisp
aesthetics also esthetics plural: a pleasing appearance or effect : beauty
appreciated the aesthetics of the gemstones
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The Singular (Or Plural) Art of Aesthetics
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
AdjectiveMy generation has an annoying penchant for treating luxuries as necessities and turning guilty pleasures into aesthetic and even moral touchstones.—Terrence Rafferty, GQ, October 1997Whereas 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, 1997I 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, editors, 1986
There are practical as well as aesthetic reasons for planting trees.
making aesthetic improvements to the building NounAesthetics is an important part of Greek philosophy.
the aesthetics of the gemstones See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Add a dollop of this creamy shade to a color palette of other neutrals for a luxurious tone-on-tone aesthetic, or use it as a soft backdrop for the quintessentially bright and fiery orange hues of fall.—Maria Sabella, Better Homes & Gardens, 22 Sep. 2023 Its image of a Paris courtesan, with tungsten-white skin and a level gaze, stretched out on her bed and approached by a Black female attendant bearing flowers, punched many a hot button — social, aesthetic and ethical — in French bourgeois culture.—Holland Cotter, New York Times, 21 Sep. 2023 But movies are an art in themselves, and, when performances are filmed without an aesthetic, the result is numbing, as the up-and-down fortunes of early movie musicals reflect.—Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 19 Sep. 2023 The show’s frenetic and bubbly aesthetic (captured well by its mesmerizing opening sequence) works against the seriousness of the plot.—Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 13 Sep. 2023 The contemporary iteration received a few aesthetic and technical updates that set it apart from its predecessors.—Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 18 Sep. 2023 Before enlisting an influencer partner to promote your product, carefully examine their social profiles to get a detailed overview of their content, personality, aesthetic and image.—Arshad Lasi, Rolling Stone, 18 Sep. 2023 The bones and blueprint of the original are the same, but many millions of euros later, the energy and aesthetic are completely different.—Chadner Navarro, Travel + Leisure, 18 Sep. 2023 However, any idea with an environmental impact that implied financial or aesthetic cost fell by the wayside.—Matthew Cockerill, Fortune, 12 Sep. 2023
Courtesy of 1985 Games A new Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition (5e) campaign setting has launched through Kickstarter that aims to bring the aesthetics of Studio Ghibli, The Legend of Zelda, and Adventure Time into the world of tabletop role-playing.—WIRED, 23 Sep. 2023 Think about your kitchen and your aesthetic as a whole to find one that fits in.—Rennie Dyball, Peoplemag, 22 Sep. 2023 Today’s aesthetics have remnants of Italian cinema in the 1950s, where men and women played characters that have remained in our memories, thanks to the garments that transformed them into idols.—Christian Allaire, Vogue, 21 Sep. 2023 The writer James Agee was prescient in romanticizing the aesthetics of workwear, of bright, white seams against dark, indigo denim.—Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 18 Sep. 2023 The intimate arrival experience is curated by David Collins Studio — its signature aesthetic will be apparent as guests head beyond the elevator banks and to the lobby lounge reminiscent of the collective’s work at Qatar’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Doha, and Harrods, the department store in London.—David Morris, Travel + Leisure, 18 Sep. 2023 Trade in Appalachia for the Alps this Christmas in Helen, Georgia, a charming small town known for its scenic natural surroundings, vineyards nestled in the foothills, and distinctive alpine aesthetic.—Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 15 Sep. 2023 Embedded in the cheery, sugary-sweet aesthetics are the darker realities of pursuing the American dream, with oblique commentary on gender, immigration, consumerism, labor, and belonging.—Lisa Wong MacAbasco, Vogue, 19 Sep. 2023 Action sequences and their aesthetics have evolved.—Courtney Howard, Variety, 18 Sep. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'aesthetic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
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
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.
borrowed from German Ästhetik, borrowed from New Latin aesthetica, from feminine of aestheticusaesthetic entry 1 — more at -ics
: 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