1. Having qualities that delight or appeal to the senses and often the mind.
2. Excellent; wonderful: hit a beautiful shot from the tee.
Used to express approval or delight.
Synonyms: beautiful, lovely, pretty, handsome, comely, fair1
All these adjectives apply to what excites aesthetic admiration. Beautiful is most comprehensive and applies to mental appreciation as well as sensual delight: a beautiful child; a beautiful painting; a beautiful mathematical proof. Lovely also has wide application but stresses sensual enjoyment or emotional response over critical faculties: a lovely fragrance; the lovely feel of silk; greeted us with a lovely smile. What is pretty is beautiful in a delicate or graceful way: a pretty face; a pretty song; a pretty dress. Handsome stresses poise and dignity of form and proportion: a handsome, oak-paneled library. "She is very pretty, but not so extraordinarily handsome" (William Makepeace Thackeray).
Comely suggests wholesome physical attractiveness: "Mrs. Hurd is a large woman with a big, comely, simple face" (Ernest Hemingway).
Fair emphasizes freshness or purity: "In the highlands, in the country places, / Where the old plain men have rosy faces, / And the young fair maidens / Quiet eyes" (Robert Louis Stevenson).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.