aes·thet·ic | \ es-ˈthe-tik , is- , British usually ēs- \
variants: also US esthetic or aesthetical or US esthetical \-ti-kəl \

Definition of aesthetic 

(Entry 1 of 3)

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 , is- , British usually ēs- \
variants: or less commonly esthetic

Definition of aesthetic (Entry 2 of 3)

1 aesthetics also esthetics 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 \-ti-k(ə-)lē \ 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


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


Aesthetics is an important part of Greek philosophy. the aesthetics of the gemstones
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

After all, Cyrus has gone through more than a few aesthetic transformations throughout her career., "Why Did Miley Cyrus Delete Her Instagram Posts? Fans Have A Few Theories," 14 July 2018 But the latter demonstrates an aesthetic problem with much of the food here that's at odds with the bright, white-tiled cheeriness of the room. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, "At 3 Squares Diner there’s a dog that won’t bark," 12 July 2018 The couple’s Midcentury aesthetic ran like a thread through every element of the wedding, beginning with the invites by Goods Gang and paper goods by Jen Kay, with illustrations by Tabitha Hope. Tamara Abraham, Harper's BAZAAR, "This Bridal Shop Owner Wore Five Different Dresses for her Palm Springs Wedding," 10 July 2018 Photos: Adrienne Grunwald for The Wall Street Journal(2) Mr. Snyder’s aesthetic has been informed not only by his relatives but also his work experience. Ray A. Smith, WSJ, "A ‘Modern Preppy’ Maestro Makes Peace With Streetwear," 10 July 2018 This should be a pleasing aesthetic matchup with a couple of tall lefties with unconventional deliveries squaring off in the second game of a three-game series between the Angels and Dodgers. Michael Beller,, "A Look at The Fantasy All-Stars Who Should Find Themselves in D.C.," 9 July 2018 The stories that really penetrate in this book, in addition to dancing us clean, marry linguistic fireworks with all the emotional meat that is behind DeWitt’s aesthetic mission, i.e.: Describing all that which words can never really reach. Brittany Allen, Longreads, "Getting Tricked by Helen DeWitt," 9 July 2018 At just three-years-old, Princess Charlotte knows the importance of having a signature aesthetic (er, at least her mom, the Duchess of Cambridge, does). Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Princess Charlotte Just Debuted a New Hairstyle at Prince Louis's Christening," 9 July 2018 The sturdy wood doors lead into a 220-square-foot interior, where the designers have outfitted the space with a traditional aesthetic. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Behold, a tiny Tudor house with traditional style," 11 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The simpler the aesthetic, the more enchanting the staging. Charles Mcnulty,, "'The Tempest' at the Old Globe: Kate Burton casts a benevolent spell as Prospera," 26 June 2018 Like much of both artists’ recent work, the album makes liberal use of liberation aesthetics, often juxtaposed directly with riffs on bourgeois pursuits. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Do Beyoncé Fans Have to Forgive Jay-Z?," 18 June 2018 His bar sits just across the street, and a thousand miles away from, the depersonalized postwar cocktail lounge aesthetic of the Safari Club. Bill Savage, Chicago Reader, "Arts / Books / Booze / Food & Drink Can a Division Street cocktail bar truly capture the spirit of Nelson Algren?," 13 June 2018 Wards recognizes achievement in aesthetics, comfort, ergonomics, material use, fit-and-finish and user-friendly technology. Emma Jayne Williams, star-telegram, "Kia’s all-new 2018 Stinger sport sedan offers premium features, performance | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 12 May 2018 During the ’80s, Ralph Lauren rose to prominence by taking the preppy aesthetic, once relegated to the American elite, and selling it as an accessible look to the masses. Chavie Lieber, Vox, "Fashion brands steal design ideas all the time. And it’s completely legal.," 27 Apr. 2018 The paramilitary aesthetic extended to products that had nothing to do with guns. Elliott Woods, The New Republic, "Essential reporting, interpretation, and opinion on politics and culture. Don't miss our latest.," 16 Apr. 2018 Panelists include: Bree Gant: A Detroit documentarian and Howard University graduate whose work explores Black aesthetics, ritual and emergence. Detroit Free Press, "Freep Film Festival 2018: All the Friday movies and special events," 13 Apr. 2018 Though all fall under the brand’s eclectic aesthetic, the designs are as distinct as the artists themselves. Sunset, "You’re Going to Want All of These Artist-Designed Home Décor Pieces," 22 Jan. 2018

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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Statistics for aesthetic

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for aesthetic

The first known use of aesthetic was in 1797

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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

aesthetics : the study of beauty especially in art and literature

: the artistic or beautiful qualities of something


aes·thet·ic | \ es-ˈthe-tik \

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- \

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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Comments on aesthetic

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occurring twice a year or every two years

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