The Meaning and Use of the Word Beautiful


Beautifull is an adjective that evokes aesthetic pleasure: it excites the senses and stirs emotions through the senses. A field of wildflowers, a colorful sunset, and an abstract sculpture could all be described as beautifull. This word is closely related to the noun beauty and its verb form, beautify, and to other adjectives of a similar flavor: lovely, pretty, handsome, fair.

The classical conception of beauty is an arrangement of integral parts into a coherent whole according to proportion, harmony, and symmetry. This notion of beauty was central to many neo-classical philosophies and artistic traditions, including classical music, architecture, and literature. However, the political entanglements of this concept tend to throw into question various aspects of it, especially those associated with its notions of purity and transcendence.

A more modern, subjectivist approach to beauty has been characterized as exciting sensuous or aesthetic pleasure: for example, it is the experience of beauty that connects us with works of art and literature in communities of appreciation. The idea of beauty as a subjective state has been criticized by philosophers such as Hume and Kant, who saw that if this is the case, controversies over particular objects or experiences can occur and that reasons may be given for their being considered beautifull.

Some of these controversies have revolved around the nature and status of beauty: is it objective or subjective? To answer this question, it is necessary to look at what the word beautiful actually means and how it is used.

In its broadest sense, beautiful means anything that excites aesthetic appreciation: a beautiful landscape, a beautiful painting, or a beautiful mathematical proof. Unlike the more narrowly defined terms pretty and handsome, beautiful can apply to the noble and spiritual qualities of a person or thing: the beautiful majesty of a cathedral; the beautiful face of William Makepeace Thackeray; a beautiful speech. Pretty implies graceful or delicate attractiveness, while handsome suggests poise and elegance: a dashingly handsome sports car.

Other terms of a similar flavor are comely and pretty, both of which suggest attractiveness that is coolly approved rather than emotionally responded to. Fair suggests beauty that is pure or flawless: the fair-faced girl; the fair-haired boy; the fairy tale princess. In the case of people, beautiful is usually used to describe women or a specific aspect of their physical appearance; pretty is more often applied to men.