aesthetic

1 of 2

adjective

aes·​thet·​ic es-ˈthe-tik How to pronounce aesthetic (audio)
is-,
 British usually  ēs-
variants also US esthetic or aesthetical or US esthetical
es-ˈthe-ti-kəl How to pronounce aesthetic (audio)
is-,
 British usually  ēs-
1
a
: 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
aesthetically adverb
or less commonly esthetically
es-ˈthe-ti-k(ə-)lē How to pronounce aesthetic (audio)
is-,
 British usually  ēs-

aesthetic

2 of 2

noun

aes·​thet·​ic es-ˈthe-tik How to pronounce aesthetic (audio)
is-,
 British usually  ēs-
variants or less commonly esthetic
1
aesthetics also esthetics es-ˈthe-tiks How to pronounce aesthetic (audio)
is-,
 British usually  ēs-
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 nationMary Clarke & Clement Crisp
3
aesthetics also esthetics plural : a pleasing appearance or effect : beauty
appreciated the aesthetics of the gemstones

Did you know?

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

Example Sentences

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
And according to The Wall Street Journal, the Rivani’s loved the home’s vampy aesthetic. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 13 Jan. 2023 Hudson continued to honor the Palm Springs aesthetic with minimal makeup, very glowy skin, and a shiny pink lip to match the dress. Carrie Wittmer, Glamour, 9 Jan. 2023 Thanks to the brand’s trademark CityDry technology, La Canadienne's boots will keep your feet dry without sacrificing your whole outfit’s aesthetic. Kristina Rutkowski, Harper's BAZAAR, 3 Jan. 2023 The fiery concept photos accompanying the release of Black Eye set the basis for an adoption of pop punk’s roughed up aesthetic. Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 23 Dec. 2022 Just look at TikTok, where many have begun recreating the Disney Channel aesthetic through their wardrobes. André-naquian Wheeler, Vogue, 20 Dec. 2022 Skeptics who watched the trailer and dismissed the long-time-coming Avatar sequel as a videogame-aesthetic hybrid of photorealism and animation that ends up looking like neither may not be entirely wrong. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Dec. 2022 Opt for a winterized version of classic Old Skools to match the Vans aesthetic with cold weather comfort. Sara Klausing, Men's Health, 18 Nov. 2022 The style aesthetic in the Koreatown Plaza food court was decidedly anti-style; this food court had something for everyone. Angella Choe, Los Angeles Times, 14 Nov. 2022
Noun
The metal-and-wire stair railings are in keeping with the contemporary aesthetic. BostonGlobe.com, 20 Dec. 2022 This tree stand is ideal for anyone with a modern aesthetic. Kelly Allen, House Beautiful, 15 Dec. 2022 Those with a farmhouse aesthetic will appreciate the Adesso Rodeo Floor Lamp. Quincy Bulin, Better Homes & Gardens, 14 Dec. 2022 Each of the queens posed for a promo picture with an aesthetic that paid tribute to the season 1 cast reveal that dropped via Logo all the way back in 2009. Joey Nolfi, EW.com, 13 Dec. 2022 The Sicilian summer style of the HBO satire, which blended Italian-holiday classics with a TikTok aesthetic, was as colorful as the cast. Sara Bosworth And Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, 12 Dec. 2022 For the remaining floors, Cartier has created a unique experience for enthusiasts with a warm yet contemporary residential aesthetic intermixed with archival materials and artisans working throughout the space. Cait Bazemore, Robb Report, 7 Dec. 2022 In keeping with Jaguar's lineup-wide minimalist interior aesthetic, the F-Pace's cabin features simple detailing, easy-to-reach secondary controls, and lots of window area for enhanced visibility. Drew Dorian, Car and Driver, 15 Nov. 2022 They're accompanied by a stunning set of rich browns and shimmering champagnes that align with just about every aesthetic. Devon Abelman, Allure, 15 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Adjective

1797, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1822, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of aesthetic was in 1797

Dictionary Entries Near aesthetic

Cite this Entry

“Aesthetic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aesthetic. Accessed 26 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

aesthetic

adjective
aes·​thet·​ic
variants or esthetic
es-ˈthet-ik,
is-
: of or relating to beauty or what is beautiful
aesthetically
-i-k(ə)-lē
adverb

Medical Definition

aesthetic

adjective
: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on aesthetic

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