• IPA: /ˌbɛlˈlɛtɹ/


  1. (obsolete) The humanities.
  2. (archaic) Literature, particularly light compositions valued for their aesthetic properties.
    • a. 1854, Henry Reed in the 1878 ed. of Lectures on English Literature, p. 34:
      That vapid, half naturalized term ‘belles-lettres,’ which has had some currency as a substitute for the term ‘literature.’
  3. (archaic) Literary studies, particularly literary aesthetics.
Related terms Translations
  • French: belles-lettres
  • German: Belles Lettres, schöne Literatur, Belletristik
  • Portuguese: belas-letras
  • Russian: худо́жественная литерату́ра

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