the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).
late 13c., from Anglo-Norm. beute, O.Fr. biauté (12c., "beauty, seductiveness, beautiful person," Mod.Fr. beauté), earlier beltet, from V.L. bellitatem (nom. bellitas) "state of being handsome," from L. bellus "pretty, handsome, charming," in classical L. used especially of women and children, or ironically or insultingly of men, perhaps from PIE *dw-eye- and related to bonus "good," bene "well." Famously defined by Stendhal as la promesse de bonheur "the promise of happiness." Replaced O.E. wlite. Concrete meaning "a beautiful woman" is first recorded late 15c. Beauty sleep "sleep before midnight" is attested by 1850.