According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word beauty is a noun and its first known use was in the 14th century. In Middle English it comes from the word beaut or belt, while in Anglo-French the word bel or beau is used to mean beautiful. In Latin, bellus means pretty. The actual definition itself is “the quality of being physically attractive; the qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses; a beautiful woman.” (Merriam-Webster, web). Of course, we have heard, read or probably even uttered phrases relative to beauty, such as “beauty is only skin deep” or “beauty is only in the eye of the beholder.” Many people when they hear the word beauty automatically think physical beauty, such as The Dove Campaign For Real Beauty, which conducted a survey in January of this year revealing most women think in that vein and that 82 percent of the fairer sex feel social media drives the world’s perception of what is beautiful (Kelly, web). The question, however, of what the real definition is has been debated for centuries and the best answer is that it is subjective, meaning it lies up to the opinion of the individual. Also, the other inquiry lies in what the world beauty applies to and the best answer for that is the same thing. Unless of course, there is another entirely different direction to explore that might not be mentioned.
Let’s harken back to the Pythagorean mathematicians. Euclid just happened to write down the golden ratio. Beauty actually is assigned a value of -1.6180339887 and can be applied as a linear relationship or shape. The ratio is (a+b) and has been incorporated in many things that are considered by the majority of the population to be beautiful such as the Parthenon. It implies symmetry and balance and does work with people as well. For example, according to J Rory Corbett, a dermatologist with the Ulster Medical Society, “the head forms a golden rectangle and the mouth and nose are placed at golden sections the distance between the eyes and chin.” In addition, “when we look at the human body then the ratio in the average human body of the distance between the navel and the foot to the height and the ratio of the distance from the top of the head to the fingers to the height is the golden ratio.” (Corbett, web).
Corbett’s way of putting it certainly takes all the subjectiveness out of the definition of beauty, but it does appear that a specific definition for beauty quite possibly is impossible. That is not merely because of the subjective nature, but also based on societal trends. Think about it. Thin is in now and considered beautiful, but during the Renaissance age, full-figured, buxom women were thought of as beautiful. In a 2010 article in Newsweek, the author, Raina Kelley, cited research the current beauty trend is a young, thin, white female with long straight hair, but that she is not the least bit affected she doesn’t fit into that profile. Why? Because most people do not and although people typically crave acceptance, they should not care to that kind of degree what other people think about them. Sure it helps, but it certainly is not all that matters. Therefore, the conclusion is beauty will never truly be defined because it is subjective and fluid. There are several things for certain pertaining to the definition though. It is a noun, it was first thought to be used in the 14th century and the language equivalents of the English word.
- Corbett, J. Rory. “What is Beauty?” Ulster Medical Journal. October 1, 2008. Web. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ on March 3, 2014.
- Kelley, Raina. “The Beauty Advantage: Why I Don’t Care About the Beauty Standard.” Newsweek. 2010. Web. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/ on March 3, 2014.
- Kelly, Samantha Murphy. “82% of Women Think Social Media Drives the Definition of Beauty.” Mashable. January 14, 2014. Web. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/ on March 3, 2014.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary. “Definition of Beauty.” Merriam-Webster Free Online Dictionary. Nd. Web. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/ on March 3, 2014.
- The Dove Campaign For Real Beauty. “Articles and Advice.” Dove.com. nd. Web. Retrieved from http://www.dove.us/ on March 3, 2014.