look·​ism ˈlu̇-ki-zəm How to pronounce lookism (audio)
variants or less commonly looksism
: prejudice or discrimination based on physical appearance and especially physical appearance believed to fall short of societal notions of beauty

Did you know?

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 The additional age bias against middle-aged and older women stems from several factors, including a warmth bias, lookism and lagging effects from greater responsibility for childcare. Kim Elsesser, Forbes, 8 Mar. 2023 Lookism Older women also face a greater bias due to lookism, which refers to the youthful beauty standards women face at work. Kim Elsesser, Forbes, 8 Mar. 2023 Still, audiences craving family-friendly diversion will find tunes, comedy and fairy-tale trappings here, with a worthy lesson about the importance of looking beyond lookism. Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2021 Lemon’s comment was a toilet-bowl swirl of sexism and ageism and lookism and did this man have an undiagnosed head injury, or what? Monica Hesse, Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2023 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, 11 July 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lookism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1978, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lookism was in 1978


Dictionary Entries Near lookism

Cite this Entry

“Lookism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lookism. Accessed 21 May. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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