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belles-lettres

[French bel-le-truh] /French bɛlˈlɛ trə/
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.
Origin
1700-10; < French: literally, fine letters. See belle, letter1
Related forms
belletrist
[bel-le-trist] /bɛlˈlɛ trɪst/ (Show IPA),
noun
belletristic
[bel-li-tris-tik] /ˌbɛl lɪˈtrɪs tɪk/ (Show IPA),
adjective
Synonyms
1. See literature.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for belles lettres

belles-lettres

/French bɛllɛtrə/
noun
1.
(functioning as sing) literary works, esp essays and poetry, valued for their aesthetic rather than their informative or moral content
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for belles lettres

belles-lettres

n.

"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
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Encyclopedia Article for belles lettres

literature that is an end in itself and is not practical or purely informative. The term can refer generally to poetry, fiction, drama, etc., or more specifically to light, entertaining, sophisticated literature. It is also often used to refer to literary studies, particularly essays. The word is French and literally means "beautiful letters."

Learn more about belles lettres with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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8
11
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