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 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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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
Part of Olds’s resistance is aesthetic, philosophical. Sam Anderson, New York Times, 12 Oct. 2022 The Steelside Aisha Upholstered Loveseat is a great option for those who prefer faux leather and/or are trying to save a bit of money without sacrificing aesthetic or comfort. Olivia Muenter, Peoplemag, 10 Nov. 2022 The staging’s mood and aesthetic, with set design by David Zinn and lighting by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, lend a playful veneer to a show that ultimately looks death straight in the eye. Naveen Kumar, Variety, 10 Nov. 2022 Saying goodbye to the camp aesthetic and hello to a sultry chromatic look, SZA continues to keep us under a spell with every Instagram post and story. Danielle Wright, Essence, 9 Nov. 2022 That’s why Retro Manufacturing makes radios with a classic aesthetic but updated functionality—including Bluetooth audio, USB, and auxiliary input, along with AM and FM radio. Matt Crisara, Popular Mechanics, 8 Nov. 2022 Lots of them sprang up right before the turn of the 20th century, when all sorts of formal, harmonic and aesthetic bolts were beginning to loosen across the arts. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 6 Nov. 2022 While a comfy mattress is the most important purchase for your bed, your bed frame majorly impacts the overall aesthetic and design of your home and can even help maintain the livelihood of your mattress. Amanda Constantine, Good Housekeeping, 26 Oct. 2022 But the elevation of the individual mind to the pinnacle and source of the universe couldn’t help but have ethical and aesthetic implications. Adam Kirsch, The New Republic, 21 Oct. 2022
Noun
For Days—which specializes in a classic, minimalist aesthetic for men and women—rewards its shoppers with store credit for returning items when they are done with them to be responsibly recycled. Rachel King, Fortune, 27 Nov. 2022 Above all, wherever the cinema challenges unjust authority, Straub’s spirit urges it onward—to embody its defiance in a distinctive aesthetic, an original mode of production, and a sense of history to match its political ideals. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 23 Nov. 2022 All the designers agreed, identifying wood and stone as key natural elements complementing the warm, dark blues, greens, and blacks prominent in the moody aesthetic. Kristina Mcguirk, Better Homes & Gardens, 31 Oct. 2022 However the pivot to openness that's happening on some high profile channels is more like a change in aesthetic than a change in moral integrity. Kate Lloyd, refinery29.com, 29 Aug. 2022 But the Civilian raises the bar for Times Square gathering places bathed in a theatrical aesthetic. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 22 July 2022 Hers with other artists of the time was based in a Black aesthetic. Shantay Robinson, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Apr. 2022 On offer are four cotton-blend, hooded sweatshirts, designed in the quintessential Gap aesthetic. Shelby Ying Hyde, Harper's BAZAAR, 30 Mar. 2022 And while these flow on and off the runways, a leather jacket will always remain a staple in the cool-girl aesthetic. Madeline Fass, Vogue, 25 Mar. 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 5 Dec. 2022.

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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