• synonyms


[French bel-le-truh]
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plural noun
  1. literature regarded as a fine art, especially as having a purely aesthetic function.
  2. light and elegant literature, especially that which is excessively refined, characterized by aestheticism, and minor in subject, substance, or scope.
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Origin of belles-lettres

1700–10; < French: literally, fine letters. See belle, letter1
Related formsbel·let·rist [bel-le-trist] /bɛlˈlɛ trɪst/, nounbel·let·ris·tic [bel-li-tris-tik] /ˌbɛl lɪˈtrɪs tɪk/, adjective

Synonyms for belles-lettres

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1. See literature.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for belles-lettres

essay, drama, story, novel, prose, information, poetry, research, leaflet, pamphlet, lore, brochure, article, composition, biography, history, poem, literature, piece, publication

Examples from the Web for belles-lettres

Historical Examples of belles-lettres

  • So are made the belles-lettres and the beaux-arts and their professors.

    Walden, and On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience

    Henry David Thoreau

  • The harlots were the Muses of belles-lettres during the Renaissance.

    Lucretia Borgia

    Ferdinand Gregorovius

  • Her books were confined to religious works and belles-lettres.

    Lucretia Borgia

    Ferdinand Gregorovius

  • Upon the tables there were engravings, drawing-books, and works of belles-lettres.

  • The third stage consists of belles-lettres and essay writing.

British Dictionary definitions for belles-lettres


  1. (functioning as singular) literary works, esp essays and poetry, valued for their aesthetic rather than their informative or moral content
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Word Origin for belles-lettres

C17: from French: fine letters
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for belles-lettres


"elegant literature, aesthetics," 1710, French, literally "fine letters," from belles, plural of belle, fem. of beau "fine, beautiful" (see beau) + lettres, plural of lettre "letter" (see letter). The literary equivalent of beaux arts.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper