Printable Version
Pronunciation: es-thed-iks Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)

Meaning: 1. The study of beauty, especially in the arts. 2. Beauty and the pleasure it brings, a pleasing or beautiful presentation for the senses.

Notes: This word is derived from the adjective, aesthetic, by adding -s, a noun suffix like linguistics and physics, i.e. a singular suffix, not the plural -s. An aesthetician is someone who is versed in or studies aesthetics. In the US and Canada (only) it can also refer to a beautician or cosmetologist. If you're pinched for space, you may leave off the initial A and spell today's word esthetics.

In Play: The second sense of today's Good Word is probably the most common: "Maude Lynn Dresser's wardrobe is an almost perfect reflection of medieval aesthetics." We find it everywhere: "Literary criticism is based more on poetic aesthetics and mysticism than reason."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Greek aisthetikos "perceptive, perceptible", the adjective derived from aisthanesthai "to perceive, to feel". The Greek adjective came to English via German sthetisch, borrowed by French, which turned it into esthétique before English borrowed it. Greek created its verb from some PIE combination like awis-dh-yo- "to sense, perceive", based on awis- "to sense, understand", source also of Sanskrit avis "obviously, noticeably" and, with a -d suffix, Latin audio "I hear". This word has been borrowed from French by many languages: Portuguese and Spanish estético, Irish aeisteitic, Polish estetyczny, Ukrainian estetichnii, and Hungarian esztetikus, to mention just a few. (Let's now thank Paula Kelly Ward for noticing the unique North American meaning of today's fascinating Good Word and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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