look·​ism | \ ˈlu̇-ki-zəm How to pronounce lookism (audio) \
variants: or less commonly looksism \ ˈlu̇k-​si-​zəm How to pronounce looksism (audio) \

Definition of lookism

: prejudice or discrimination based on physical appearance and especially physical appearance believed to fall short of societal notions of beauty

Keep scrolling for more

Lookism and Discrimination

There are a lot of -isms in the English language but most people overlook lookism. It describes the prejudice or discrimination people have toward others because of their appearances. People first used the word in the late 1970s in reference to how people were viewing others who were heavier set. Today the panorama of lookism extends from the "overly" beautiful actor or actress to the homely child. Economists, sociologists, and psychologists alike pay close attention to the lookism that occurs in everyday life and examine how it affects people and society as a whole.

Examples of lookism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Even newborn babies prefer attractive to nonattractive faces, which means lookism may be genetic, said Michael Cunningham, a psychologist and expert on the dynamics of attraction at the University of Louisville. Alfred Lubrano, Philly.com, "After complaints, Ratemyprofessors.com does away with its 'hotness' ratings," 11 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lookism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of lookism

1978, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about lookism

Time Traveler for lookism

Time Traveler

The first known use of lookism was in 1978

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about lookism

Statistics for lookism

Cite this Entry

“Lookism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lookism. Accessed 26 Sep. 2020.

Comments on lookism

What made you want to look up lookism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!