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Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The term beauty’s first known use was in the 14th century, referring to physical attractiveness, as well as goodness or courtesy. It comes from the Anglo-French route, boute. In classical Latin, it was used especially to describe women and children[1]. The term was notably described by Stendhal as ‘the promise of happiness’[2].

The term beauty is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary in two ways. First, beauty is a combination of qualities that please the aesthetic senses. This pleasure can arise for many different reasons. One may see beauty in something because it is familiar, symmetrical, colourful, meaningful, etc. Second, beauty describes a pleasing thing or person[1]. Beauty can be found in the physical and non-physical. One may be described as a beautiful person because he or she is kind and selfless.

Beauty has no right or wrong; it is a relative experience. What one considers to be beautiful is based on his or her own, personal definition of beauty which is developed through life experiences and preferences. The expression ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ upholds this view. One’s culture may have a significant influence on one’s definition of beauty. This is largely because beauty is often a quality that correlates with an idea of the norm. It is often times the things that are far outside of this norm that we find to be ugly or distasteful.

An ideal beauty is an entity that achieves a kind of symmetrical perfection. The experience of beauty often involves the interpretation of balance and harmony. Humans are naturally drawn to that which is balanced and proportional. This relates to the theory that beauty is achieved by that which is considered to be normal or correct. However, beauty is also often found in that which is different. The combinations of individualistic features that make up each human being make everyone beautiful in their own, unique way. If everyone looked the same, then there could be no beauty. In order for beauty to exist, it must be contrasted by that which is unpleasant.

[1] “beauty, n.”. OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press.
(accessed November 18, 2012). 
[2] “beauty (n.)”. Online Etymology Dictionary. 2011. Douglas Harper.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=beauty&allowed_in_frame=0 (accessed
November 18, 2012).

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