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

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Cute leopard mules with a kitten heel for a mob-wife aesthetic moment? Jenifer Calle, Glamour, 17 Feb. 2024 The chain last unveiled a new store design in 2019 with much of the similar aesthetic approach left intact with the new look. Jordan Valinsky, CNN, 17 Feb. 2024 Its lobby, which was previously on the 23rd floor, moved to the ground level, where Calacatta Gold Italian marble and a light art deco aesthetic welcome guests and visitors. Lydia Mansel, Travel + Leisure, 17 Feb. 2024 For renowned architect David Hertz, this understanding not only encompasses a material’s aesthetic qualities but also its environmental impact. Spencer Elliott, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 Known as gynoids and immortalized by Helmut Newton in a shoot for Vogue’s November 1995 issue, the additional suits remain emblematic of Mugler’s aesthetic, influencing designers ranging from Alexander McQueen to Nicolas Ghesquière in the decades since. Hayley Maitland, Vogue, 15 Feb. 2024 Those who are excited to play with aesthetic holiday lighting might look for color-changing modes, while those who are most concerned about safety will want more control over timers and brightness. Alida Nugent, Better Homes & Gardens, 14 Feb. 2024 By prioritizing drought-resistant landscaping solutions, SunTrust Remodeling not only conserves precious resources but also enhances the resilience and aesthetic appeal of properties in drought-prone areas like Los Angeles. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 12 Feb. 2024 This year, Married to the Mob has returned to the zeitgeist — as did The Sopranos and Goodfellas — when TikTok users started sharing videos of themselves done up in the mob wife aesthetic, which includes fur coats, animal prints and gaudy jewelry. Ryan Gajewski, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Feb. 2024
Noun
In celebration of the partnership, Fang has specially crafted a set of wings infusing Victoria’s Secret spirit with Susan Fang aesthetics. Angela Lei, Forbes, 19 Feb. 2024 And the bike looks slick; Moots integrates all the wires and hoses into the hollow frame, providing a more streamlined aesthetic. Nathan Borchelt, Travel + Leisure, 16 Feb. 2024 On the wedding day itself, the design directive was to create a very soft, classic aesthetic in white and green. Alexandra MacOn, Vogue, 16 Feb. 2024 But a few bakers and pastry chefs are reclaiming the method, precisely for its retro, mass-market aesthetic. Zoey Poll Katja Mayer, New York Times, 15 Feb. 2024 The exhibition — a world first — examines the enduring appeal of the cute aesthetic amongst adults and asks deeper questions about its allure. Zara Khan, CNN, 14 Feb. 2024 However, Mierzejewski says parents opting for something new and fresh should know that bucking tradition doesn’t necessarily mean that your basket will be lacking a traditional Easter aesthetic. Sharon Brandwein, Southern Living, 13 Feb. 2024 However, those who are swayed by aesthetics might favor hotels that tick off all of the hospitality boxes—and look good doing so. Kelsey Mulvey, Sunset Magazine, 13 Feb. 2024 The smaller of the two dwellings had some catching up to do in the aesthetics department. Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 6 Feb. 2024 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.

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 28 Feb. 2024.

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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