Thursday, September 18, 2014

Word of the Week: Belletrist

It's Thursday!  Time for another Word of the Week!

Word: belletrist

How you say it: [bel-le-trist]

What it is: noun

How to pluralize it: belletrists

What it means: (1.) a writer of belles-lettres. (Definition courtesy of the British Dictionary, via

Use it three times and it's yours! Using a word three times can help you remember it…wait a second. A writer of 'belles-lettres?'  What the heck is that? As often is the case, it isn’t enough to simply know the dictionary definition of a word to understand what it really means.  So, what exactly are belles-lettres?

Word: belles-lettres

How you say it: [bel-le-truh] (French)

What it is: plural noun

What it means: (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. (Definition courtesy of

Okay, we're getting a little closer here to figuring out just what a belletrist is. So what does 'aesthetic' mean?

Word: aesthetic

How you say it: [es-thet-ik]

What it is: adjective, noun

How you pluralize it: aesthetics

What it means: (adjective) (1.) pertaining to a sense of the beautiful or to the philosophy of aesthetics.(2.) of or pertaining to the study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty; of or relating to the science of aesthetics.(3.) having a sense of the beautiful; characterized by a love of beauty. (4.) pertaining to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality. (noun) (5.) the philosophical theory or set of principles governing the idea of beauty at a given time and place:the clean lines, bare surfaces, and sense of space that bespeak the machine-age aesthetic; the Cubist aesthetic. (Definition courtesy of

All right, now that we've done some hopping around the dictionary, I think we can finally piece together what a belletrist is.

The way I understand it, a belletrist is someone who writes literature, seeing it as something more akin to fine art than anything else.  Belles-lettres are basically writings which are done purely to be beautiful and have no other function. Now that I think I've got my mind wrapped around the definition, I think I can give those three sentences a try.

As a belletrist, Mariah saw pulp fiction as something disgusting.

If you want your novel to have any deeper substance, you should not write like a belletrist.

In my opinion, Archibald Macleish was less of a poet and more of a belletrist.

Whew! This Word of the Week was a doozy!  Maybe I'll just take the next two Thursdays off.

Nah. What fun would that be?

Share your three sentences in the comments!

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  1. There's nothing like a vocabulary-building exercise to finish off a long day of Algebra II/Trig homework! Now, let's see...

    1) I often struggle with my inner belletrist when writing descriptive scenes.
    2) Poetry may be the safest haven for a modern belletrist; the average novel reader will lose interest quickly when confronted by over-embellished language.
    3) The belletrist had difficult finding anyone willing to read through his flowery manuscript.

    Whoo! That was hard! How was my semicolon use in #2? I think I might need some more practice with my favorite punctuation mark. Got any tips for that?

  2. Your use of the noble semicolon was done well, young padawan. (I really hope you like Star Wars, because otherwise, that sounded really condescending.) I will actually be writing a Word-Craft Wednesday about clauses on October 1st, and this will cover the use of the semicolon.

    1. You just made my day! I tend to call my friends my "young padawan"s when instructing them on the finer points of various fandoms (usually TMNT, of course). Anna especially receives that term of affection all the time. I'm so happy that I got it right! *Snoopy-style happy dance*