Definition of belles-lettres in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌbelˈletrə/

plural noun

[also treated as singular]
1Essays, particularly of literary and artistic criticism, written and read primarily for their aesthetic effect.
Example sentences
  • 'With an Essay on Style' and 'Essays from the Guardian' encapsulate his engagement with Victorian periodical journalism and belles-lettres.
  • We review both belles-lettres and nonfiction.
  • Books of literate and entertaining essays on occasional topics - what used to be called belles-lettres - are no longer common, and that is a shame.
2Literature considered as a fine art.
Example sentences
  • So if the peer group is the Court, the discourse appropriate to such a dispersed social sphere would be belles-lettres.
  • Only a few years before, Longfellow had become professor of modern languages and belles-lettres at Harvard University.
  • He himself writes Hellenistic (standard Greek), as befitted a technical writer; Atticism (imitation of classical Athenian authors) was confined to belles-lettres.



Pronunciation: /belˈletrizəm/
Example sentences
  • Thomas Sheridan's protests aside, elocution existed as a support to belletrism by legitimizing the rationale, by incorporating its logic into the realm of embodied performance.
  • If elocution exists to treat delivery as such, we see in the continued tradition of belletrism a kind of bidden theory of delivery.
  • The effect of assigning this kind of importance to the cultivation of taste through belletrism is twofold.


Pronunciation: /belˈletrist/
Example sentences
  • By that time, at the age of thirty-seven, he'd already achieved the status of Russia's leading young belletrist, his volumes of short stories published, praised and wreathed with awards, his career as a dramatist evolving.
  • He shone as a belletrist whose engaging and accessible prose is always fun to read.
  • It certainly wouldn't fit next to the writings of belletrist genres that resemble intellectual Rubik's cubes, nor is it pulp fiction or easy literature that carries the reader away from daily humdrum.


Pronunciation: /ˌbeləˈtristik/
Example sentences
  • If the old World's Classics had any introductions at all (most didn't) they were short belletristic effusions by writers such as Virginia Woolf or G. K. Chesterton.
  • The interest of the time was not in belletristic fiction but in the free-flowing, highly intellectual critical essay, with its elements of autobiography and historical skepticism and its pointed illuminating aphorisms.
  • The belletristic choices were at their behest, not mine, but I agreed to readings that I thought I could work with.


Mid 17th century: from French, literally 'fine letters'.

Words that rhyme with belles-lettres

Petra, raison d'être, tetra

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: belles-let·tres

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