Commonly Confused Words: Aesthetic vs. Esthetic

When you see the term aesthetic today, it’s frequently attached to a fashion trend. From classic umbrella terms like preppy or goth, to niche looks like cottagecore, dark academia, or coastal cowgirl, the word aesthetic has become very popular. Or should that be esthetic? Both words sound alike, and the spelling difference is slight. Does that mean the definition difference is slight, too? Let’s find out!

Aesthetic vs. Esthetic at a glance

  • Aesthetic is the British English spelling
  • Esthetic is the American English spelling
Pastoral Art Aesthetic

Do You Say Aesthetic or Esthetic?

Both aesthetic and esthetic refer to the concept of beauty and visual appeal. They can also describe a particular artistic sensibility or style, reflecting a set of principles or values regarding beauty and artistic expression. The terms also indicate certain highly subjective preferences that vary based on individual tastes, cultural influences, and personal experiences.

Aesthetic and esthetic also have an academic meaning. In philosophy and art history, the terms encompass deeper discussions about the nature of beauty, art, and sensory perception. They are used to explore questions about what constitutes beauty and how it is experienced and interpreted.

So if aesthetic and esthetic mean the same thing, why are there two words? Unlike many commonly confused words, such affect and effect, or allusive and elusive, there is no real difference between aesthetic vs. esthetic.

Abstract Art Aesthetic

When To Use Aesthetic

Aesthetic’s popular use comes from the internet, and the fact that aesthetic is more common than esthetic is very interesting. While English is the dominant language on the internet, it’s usually American English spellings and usage that make it into common use. The difference between aesthetic and esthetic is regional, but it’s not the American spelling that has gained popularity.

Before the term was more widely used to talk about popular fashion, Americans used esthetic, and countries that use British English used aesthetic. But now, thanks to the internet, aesthetic dominates. 

When you’re casually talking about somebody’s sense of style, taste, and fashion, you almost always use the word aesthetic. This is often the sense in which the word is used today, and while you could use esthetic, most people are used to seeing it spelled aesthetic.

Aesthetic Examples:

  • She has such a distinct sense of style. Her aesthetic is all her own.
  • The new painting has aesthetic appeal.
Classical Realism Art Aesthetic

When To Use Esthetic

Although the words mean the same, esthetic is less commonly seen. However, when we look at aesthetics and esthetics, the word’s use changes a bit. (Yes, these terms can be plural—you can say that somebody has multiple aesthetics they change between.) But aesthetics/esthetics is also a field of study. When you talk about the academic field, American English tends to favor esthetics, while British English uses aesthetics

Esthetic Examples:

  • John just got his hair styled. Do you like his new esthetic?
  • The lecturer in esthetics gave a cool presentation at the art museum.
Urban Contemporary Art Aesthetic

Aesthetic and Esthetic Appeal

Because aesthetic and esthetic are interchangeable, the one you use is essentially your preference! In other words … it’s an aesthetic decision!

Want to know more about commonly confused words? We have vocabulary guides for many of these confusing word pairs. 

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