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
A great deal of our design process is to make the practical elements comply with our strong aesthetic principles, craftsmanship and qualities of our collections.—Laird Borrelli-Persson, Vogue, 21 Nov. 2023 Beyond aesthetic, overall size factors into whether a bookshelf can fit through doorways and staircases, too—an especially important consideration for large bookshelves that arrive assembled.—Kristina McGuirk, Better Homes & Gardens, 20 Nov. 2023 What were your aesthetic references in constructing it?—Valeria Verbaro, The Hollywood Reporter, 20 Nov. 2023 Bras are like shoes, there's a style for every breast shape, body type, and aesthetic preference.—Courtney Leiva, Peoplemag, 20 Nov. 2023 Their straightforward aesthetic works well in a variety of contexts: strong forms in materials such as steel, wood and concrete, each project tailored to a neighborhood’s proportions, textures and scale, whether in City Heights, Tijuana or South Park.—Dirk Sutro, San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Nov. 2023 There’s an aspect of criticism that inherently aims, however ironically, to repair the flaws of others—to improve the world through aesthetic judgment.—Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 17 Nov. 2023 The A-frame wood stand with glass bulb vases is perfect for propagating plant cuttings, offering both functionality and aesthetic appeal to your home.—Kathy Barr, Rolling Stone, 15 Nov. 2023 Scott’s closest collaborators are trained to anticipate his aesthetic preferences.—Michael Schulman, The New Yorker, 6 Nov. 2023
Colorways are meant to upgrade the aesthetic of your winter outfit with options ranging from India ink/gum to tobacco/black.—Jessica MacDonald, Travel + Leisure, 21 Nov. 2023 For those looking to add their own personal aesthetic to their cookware, the Our Place Always Pan 2.0 is the best nonstick pan.—Michelle Love, Better Homes & Gardens, 20 Nov. 2023 This roundup has our hearts, featuring four full-sizers perfectly summarizing the minimalist Merit aesthetic.—Sarah Hoffmann, Allure, 20 Nov. 2023 In fact, a lot of the silo’s aesthetic was inspired by images of the Great Depression in the 1930s, down to the way people were dressed.—Hunter Ingram, Variety, 19 Nov. 2023 There’s a real focus on aesthetics, but aesthetics change.—Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times, 17 Nov. 2023 Amazon Essentials Belice Ballet Flat The timeless ballet flat is the comfiest way to dress your feet without sacrificing aesthetics.—Wendy Vazquez, Southern Living, 16 Nov. 2023 If your goal is to see stunning aesthetics, try making your way to Trail Ridge Road, which happens to be the highest road in the state of Colorado.—Elizabeth Ayoola, Essence, 15 Nov. 2023 What if the forms of culture that A.I. facilitated with the least friction—the lo-fi beats and anime aesthetics and generic prose style—were actually what most people wanted?—Anna Wiener, The New Yorker, 13 Nov. 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