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-​ \

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


aes·​thet·​ic | \ es-ˈthe-tik How to pronounce aesthetic (audio) , is-, British usually ēs- \
variants: or less commonly esthetic

Definition of aesthetic (Entry 2 of 2)

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 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


aesthetically or less commonly esthetically \ es-​ˈthe-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce aesthetic (audio) , is-​ , British usually  ēs-​ \ adverb

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective For now, Intro is a reminder that in a material world, what a building is made of can say a lot about the values — environmental, aesthetic and, even psychological — that led to its construction. Steven Litt, cleveland, "Developers of Intro apartment project in Ohio City sing virtues of mass timber construction," 5 Apr. 2021 Using archive home video, protest music, assorted flyers and paraphernalia from the time, this is a visual masterclass in a radical 1980s aesthetic and a BFI Flare highlight. Hattie Collins, Vogue, "10 New and Upcoming Queer Films to Add to Your Watchlist," 3 Apr. 2021 Studs, buckles and fringes are also common, and some may even boast ribbon or aesthetic laces. Anthony Marcusa,, "The best classic clog," 3 Apr. 2021 Arlington Memorial Bridge, just upstream from the old Long Bridge, is the spiritual and aesthetic antithesis of the 14th Street crossing. Washington Post, "Washington is a city of great bridges and terrible bridges. These are their stories.," 1 Apr. 2021 The pair collaborated on a number of novels and teleplays, but their cultural and aesthetic sensibilities most famously aligned in 1997 when Ossana recommended an 11-page short story about two gay cowboys published in the New Yorker. Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, "Larry McMurtry, author of ‘Lonesome Dove’ and ‘The Last Picture Show,’ dies," 26 Mar. 2021 For all the remarkable range of your repertoire, there is an aesthetic and technical through-line plus tremendous rigor, despite an almost casual, improvisational feel at times., "New PBS documentary illuminates choreographer Twyla Tharp’s expansive, trailblazing career," 25 Mar. 2021 The minimal space is a testament to his restraint and aesthetic convictions. Camille Okhio, ELLE Decor, "This Is the Mexico City Nest of a Designer About to Take Flight," 24 Mar. 2021 The Premiere Series encapsulates that sentiment not only in style and aesthetic but also functionality. Michael Loré, Forbes, "FootJoy’s Premiere Series Retells Its Storied History To Today’s Golfer," 12 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Gian was the maestro, the James Laughlin or Sylvia Beach of a strung-out, down-at-the-heels American aesthetic, something tingling in the wake of punk and lassoed to the online. Christian Lorentzen, Vulture, "On Giancarlo DiTrapano, 1974 to 2021," 5 Apr. 2021 The title’s minimalist aesthetic and design flies in the face of other acclaimed games, offering a respite from the ever-expanding open worlds and inflated run times that mark many AAA releases. Vincent Acovino, Wired, "Qomp Makes a Case for Shorter, Simpler Video Games," 2 Apr. 2021 Universal Standard’s minimal aesthetic is at the opposite end of the spectrum, but the two brands’ differences made the collaboration especially appealing and the final product so compelling. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Erdem and Universal Standard Join Forces for a Game-changing Denim Collaboration," 31 Mar. 2021 Some scorn the aesthetic as that of a giant mausoleum: bleak and cold. Kelsey Ables, Washington Post, "Brutalist buildings aren’t unlovable. You’re looking at them wrong.," 25 Mar. 2021 Although Coulier’s greatest challenge was Pinocchio himself, Colli spent a long time designing Geppetto, played by Roberto Benigni, a character whose aesthetic felt equally important. Emily Zemler, Los Angeles Times, "‘Pinocchio’ hair and makeup team creates a seamless blend of animals, humans, puppets," 22 Mar. 2021 Like in his own abode, Mawhinney discovered that people wanted furniture that looked good, fit their home's aesthetic, and was gender neutral. Tanisha A. Sykes, USA TODAY, "How a former chef switched to carpentry and bolstered his business during the pandemic," 22 Mar. 2021 The band’s aesthetic drew equally from ancient Egypt and the year 3000. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, "Pharoah Sanders Takes on Electronic Music," 22 Mar. 2021 The comfort factor is key to the brand’s success, but so too is its whimsical palette and playful aesthetic, said Chelsea Power, a senior buyer at Matchesfashion. Fiorella Valdesolo, WSJ, "10 Cult Fashion Items That Stand the Test of Time," 13 Mar. 2021

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


1797, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1822, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for aesthetic


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.


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

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Time Traveler for aesthetic

Time Traveler

The first known use of aesthetic was in 1797

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Statistics for aesthetic

Last Updated

8 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Aesthetic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for aesthetic



English Language Learners Definition of aesthetic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of or relating to art or beauty



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

: a set of ideas or opinions about beauty or art
: the study of beauty especially in art and literature
: the artistic or beautiful qualities of something


aes·​thet·​ic | \ es-ˈthe-tik How to pronounce aesthetic (audio) \

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.


aes·​thet·​ic | \ es-ˈthe-tik, British usually ēs- How to pronounce aesthetic (audio) \

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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