belles lettres

belles-lettres

[French bel-le-truh]
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

belletrist [bel-le-trist] , noun
belletristic [bel-li-tris-tik] , adjective


1. See literature.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
belles-lettres (French bɛllɛtrə)
 
n
(functioning as singular) literary works, esp essays and poetry, valued for their aesthetic rather than their informative or moral content
 
[C17: from French: fine letters]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

belles-lettres
"elegant literature, aesthetics," 1710, from Fr., lit. "fine letters," from belles, pl. of belle, fem. of beau "fine, beautiful" + lettres, pl. of lettre "letter." The literary equivalent of beaux arts.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

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."

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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