belles-lettres

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See also: belles lettres

English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Borrowing from French belles-lettres (fine writing), a parallel construction with the beaux arts (fine arts). Littré considered the belles-lettres to embrace grammar, rhetoric, and poetry. Sense embracing all of the humanities under the influence of Latin literae humaniores.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

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belles-lettres (uncountable)

  1. (obsolete) The humanities.
  2. (archaic) Literature, particularly light compositions valued for their aesthetic properties.
    • a. 1854, Henry Reed in the 1878 ed. of Lectures on English Literature, p. 34:
      That vapid, half naturalized term ‘belles-lettres,’ which has had some currency as a substitute for the term ‘literature.’
  3. (archaic) Literary studies, particularly literary aesthetics.

Related terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  • "belles-lettres, n.", in the Oxford English Dictionary, 1887.