Etymology of Aesthetic

Aesthetic is that which is concerned with the ugly and the beautiful. However, that’s just the dictionary definition. Hordes of scholars have spent whole careers trying to define aesthetics. In the West, we consider aesthetics as something is concerned with art and beauty. Not all cultures share the same opinion.


Let’s start from the beginning, with the Ancient Greek word aisthanomai (αἰσθάνομαι), which means I learn or I understand or I perceive. This word later spawned another word, aisthesis (αἴσθησις)meaning perception.

Once more there was an evolution, and aisthesis evolved into the precursor of word aesthetic—the Ancient Greek word aisthetikos (αἰσθητικός), which means perception of the senses.

The word then evolved into the French word esthétique and the German word Ästhetik. These two are the cause of the birth of the word Aesthetic, in 1798.

The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe by Kevin J. Hayes explains the birth of aesthetic well: in 1798, the word was used in an article in the Monthly Review by Professor Kant. By 1821, the word had spread everywhere.

Aesthetic in Other Languages

Albanian: estetik

Basque: estetikoak

Bosnian: estetski

Catalan: estètic

Croatian: estetski

Czech: estetický

Dutch: aesthetisch

Estonian: esteetiline

French: esthétique

Galician: estético

Hungarian: esztétikus

Italian: estetico

Lithuanian: estetinis

Malteese: estetika

Norwegian: estetiske

Polish: estetyczny

Portuguese: estético

Spanish: estético

Swedish: estetiska


Klein, Dr. Ernest, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Co., 1971.

Hayes, Kevin J. The Cambridge Companion To Edgar Allan Poe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

Murray, John. An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. 1921.