[ French bel-le-truh ]
/ French bɛlˈlɛ trə /

plural noun

literature regarded as a fine art, especially as having a purely aesthetic function.
light and elegant literature, especially that which is excessively refined, characterized by aestheticism, and minor in subject, substance, or scope.

Nearby words

  1. belleek,
  2. belleek ware,
  3. bellefontaine,
  4. bellefontaine neighbors,
  5. bellerophon,
  6. belletrist,
  7. belleville,
  8. belleville spring,
  9. bellevue,
  10. bellflower

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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for belles-lettres

British Dictionary definitions for belles-lettres


/ (French bɛllɛtrə) /


(functioning as singular) literary works, esp essays and poetry, valued for their aesthetic rather than their informative or moral content

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper