Meaning of belles-lettres in English:


Pronunciation /bɛlˈlɛtr(ə)/ /bɛllɛtʀ/

plural noun

also treated as singular
  • Essays, particularly on literary and artistic criticism, written and read primarily for their aesthetic effect.

    ‘he inspired me with the desire to restore writing on art to nineteenth century belles-lettres’
    ‘elegant dabbling in belles-lettres’
    • ‘'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.’
    • ‘This stimulated cultural creativity in more open environments such as journalism and belles-lettres.’
    • ‘This is downright impossible unless you reach for the treasury of belles-lettres, for its rich variety of expression.’
    learning, scholarship, erudition, education, knowledge, book learning, academic training


Mid 17th century from French, literally ‘fine letters’.



/bɛlˈlɛtr(ə)/ /bɛllɛtʀ/