The definition of the word beauty could be defined very simply as a way to describe an object that is appealing or pleasing to the eye. The term is much more complicated than this, however and can be more clearly defined by the well known statement “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. This indicates that what one person finds as pleasing or beautiful is far different than what another person would consider beautiful. Some people would describe beauty as an ocean view of a sunset, while others would describe it as a scantily dressed female holding onto a pole. The best way to provide a definition of beauty would include examples of what most people would consider beautiful, examples of what most people would not consider to be things of beauty, and ways a person can tell if he feels something is beautiful.
Although everyone has a slightly different idea of beauty there are some common threads. Most men agree that a thin woman in a bikini is the perfect depiction of beauty, while most women react to this sight with jealousy. Many women would be more inclined to find puppies, kittens, and babies as a depiction of beauty. Men would be more inclined to view these more as work and responsibility. Sunsets are generally described by most people as a sign of beauty, except by children who are not allowed to go out after dark. Sunshine after a rain is beautiful to most, as is rain after six months of drought. Many people think a rose is beautiful, until they prick their fingers on the thorns. Some people find an ocean beautiful, unless they are on a life raft in the middle of it. Different cultures describe beauty differently. Americans would often describe a beautiful woman as tall blonde and thin (the average supermodel). A number of other cultures prefer women, who are shorter, plumper and darker. In some countries it is even lovely to have under arm hair.
In contrast to what people would describe as a symbol of beauty, is what people consider to be unattractive. The opposite of the thin visually attractive person, is the large hairy person, who most people find somewhat frightening to run into on a dark street. A dumpster filled with large smelly trash bags is an example of something most people would describe as the opposite of beautiful. The aftermath of a large disaster is far from beautiful to most people, except to the reporters, who make considerable amounts of money by taking pictures of it. Most Americans would find a plate full of live worms to be a less than beautiful sight. In some cultures however, this would be considered a delicacy or beautifully prepared meal. Most people are repulsed or saddened by tragic scenes such as accidents, murder scenes, or train wrecks. A few people however are fascinated by these scenes and would even consider them to be beautiful.
If a person is unsure what he feels is beautiful, there are a few certain signs to tell. If the person looks at a sight and feels drawn to it and calmed by it, there is a good chance he finds the sight beautiful. If he however finds it difficult to keep his lunch from resurfacing, he probably is feeling the sight is far from beautiful. As a general rule, a thing of beauty invokes pleasant or peaceful feelings. Things that a person does not find beautiful tend to create feelings of repulsion and a desire to flee the presence. An example of this would be pictures. If a person views a landscape picture and has the feeling that he would like to go to this place, it is probably a beautiful picture. If he views it, and it brings back nightmares from prison or war, it is probably not a beautiful thing. Sometimes these reactions to beauty or lack of it have to be consciously controlled in order to maintain positive relationships. An example of this would be if a person’s co-worker brings her new baby in to show everyone and the sight of the infant is reminiscent of the horror movie from the week before, it is best to hide the natural reaction of running screaming from the room.
Beauty is a very difficult word to definitively describe as it truly is something that is viewed differently by every individual. The basic definition however is correct by describing the feelings brought about by a thing of beauty. Beauty is “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit” (Webster, n.d.). This definition means simply that something beautiful creates a pleasurable feeling within the person who beholds it. In some cases this can even be conditional, such as a person who often complains about her house being too small often finds her home to be a thing of beauty after six weeks of motel living. With Webster’s definition essentially anything can be a thing of beauty from a cuddly kitten to a nuclear explosion. It simply depends on who is looking at it at the time. Two people can stand side by side and both see something beautiful. However one can be looking at the flowers outside of a window and the other can be looking at the person undressing inside it. When a vision of something creates a happy, peaceful, relaxing positive experience for a person, it is beautiful. If the image creates negative feelings or a desire to get away, it is not beautiful. This is a simple way to define the very complex word and idea of beauty.
Webster, Merriam. “Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language”.