Do you have a hard time finding different ways to describe beautiful and attractive things, experiences, and people? How do you imagine somebody who is cute, gorgeous, or good-looking, and how do native speakers experience these words?
There are so many synonyms for beautiful that mean more or less the same thing, but not exactly. The differences are very subtle, but with aesthetic beauty and emotions, we all know how essential it is to be concise and graceful with our communication and understanding.
English has so many ways to say the same thing. This rich mix of different tongues and the evolution of English (much thanks to our friend Shakespeare) has made English the beautiful mélange [mixture] that it is today. Pay attention to the Etymology of some of the words below.
Your native language probably has an elaborate selection of words to describe beauty and attraction, but you probably only know a few in English. By creating a rich vocabulary, you enrich your English and sound much more natural.
The 16 Most Common Synonyms For Beauty
*Organized from innocent to more suggestive of romantic and/or sexual interest
1. Cute can be used to describe a dog, a baby, or a person you are attracted to in a romantic or non-romantic way. To call somebody cute is often the first phase of romantic interest, but it can also be confused with a plutonic/NON-romantic love.
2. Adorable has the same sense as cute, but it’s a bit stronger. It’s a way to talk about a lighter, more playful form of beauty that can be applied to pets, babies/kids, and people for whom you may or may not have a romantic attraction. Adore as a verb, however, means to have a deep love and respect for someone.
3. Attractive is the most generic and objective way to say that another person has a pleasing appearance. It does not necessarily denote romantic interest. This is a word you might use to talk about a person (to objectively describe someone as good-looking) and not to a person your interested in.
4. Good-looking is one of the most common ways to describe a person who is attractive. Although good-looking is a little more suggestive of romantic intentions than the word attractive, it does not necessarily denote romantic interest. It is used to talk about people who have a pleasing appearance. Good-looking comes from to look good (e.g. you look good in that dress).
5. Beautiful is the classic way to describe a feminine beauty (at least when talking about people), which often expresses both outer and inner beauty. Calling a person of the opposite sex beautiful (i.e. you are beautiful) is more and more suggestive of romantic interest because it could denote attraction to their whole being.
This is, however, different than saying “you look beautiful” (a compliment on somebody’s current appearance which may or may not denote romantic interest). It’s also important to keep in mind that a woman (especially) often compliments another woman’s physical beauty without romantic intentions, as a man may (to a woman). But it’s rare to hear a heterosexual man describe another man as beautiful.
*Important Cultural Note: With romantic intentions, beautiful is generally used to describe a feminine or very intimate beauty. So, in English speaking cultures, it’s not common for a woman to call a man beautiful unless she was describing a more delicate type of beauty. While a man would call a woman beautiful, a woman would call a man good-looking, cute, or even handsome. Also keep in mind that beautiful is not just used to describe people, but also places and things, which is much more universal.
6. Handsome is a word that is traditionally used to describe an attractive man. In the United States, this is a more old-fashioned word, and is rarely used by younger generations, while Australians of all ages use this to describe attractive men all the time.
In the U.S. the general tendency (for younger people) in describing an attractive man isn’t to use beautiful or handsome (although they aren’t incorrect). Most people younger than 40 would use good-looking or cute in this situation.
7. Pretty is similar to beautiful in meaning, but in a more innocent and/or physical way. Beautiful is a more powerful and complete concept (beauty can describe not just outer beauty, but also inner beauty, as well as grace), and has more of an impact. Pretty, on the other hand, may be more based on physical appearance that can be molded by cosmetics. While it does denote attraction and there’s nothing superficial about this word, pretty is not as deep and significant as beautiful. It’s also not so formal.
Note: This is another word describing feminine beauty. A woman would generally never call a man “pretty.” Another common collocation is for a witch to call kids “my pretties” when she has a malicious intention.
8. Gorgeous is another synonym for beautiful that denotes a very powerful physical attraction. While the world beautiful may have more of an inner/outer quality, gorgeous is purely physical attraction. This can be used for both feminine and masculine beauty, although it is more common for women to use this to describe men.
9. Lovely is a synonym for what is generally a feminine beauty that describes an elegant and/or radiant beauty. You can also use it to describe things and events (i.e. I had a lovely time at the park, my vacation was lovely, etc). This is used a lot in posh British English.
10. Exquisite means to be beautiful in a very delicate and refined way. Similar to the word lovely, when describing people, exquisite denotes an extreme feminine beauty. Employing similar qualities (delicate, refined, etc), we can use exquisite to talk about food, wine, an experience, and anything else that demands a keen/sensitive attention to details.
11. Stunning is a surprising and/or shocking appearance, which supposedly may even cause the loss of consciousness. It is commonly used to describe feminine beauty, but can be used to describe a man too.
12. Foxy is another word that is used in English to describe a very attractive woman or man. You can say “she’s foxy,” or “She is a fox,” although this word is not used so much nowadays (it’s more 7o’s slang). The literal meaning of a fox is a wild animal (similar to a dog- see definition below), and the origin of the British word is foxismonitism, which means young and attractive.
Check your translations: When I was a beginning Spanish speaker in Mexico, I learned that the literal translation for fox in Spanish was zorra. So I was on a date with a foxy woman one night, and everything was going really well until I looked her in the eyes and said “eres muy zorra” and she surprised me with a slap in the face. Apparently zorra means prostitute in Spanish.
13. Radiant is a bright, or shining kind of beautiful that is specifically used to describe feminine beauty. This is a beauty that is vibrant with light, luminosity, life, energy and health. It also is common to use this as a temporal, in-the-moment beauty.
14. Sexy is a word that I believe translates into other languages and most people have an understanding of. It means that the person is attractive in a very sexual, sensual way, that they cause excitement. Nowadays, however, when used in a colloquial sense, sexy can sometimes be used to describe exciting, glamorous and/or trendy things, like a “sexy new guitar,” or a “sexy new computer” (similar to chic).
15. Hot is similar to sexy in that it’s an attractiveness that provokes sexual interest or even lust. You can say that “he is hot,” or that “he is a hottie.” Both hot and sexy are slightly objectifying. Here’s a definition from urban dictionary.
16. Babe is noun used to describe a very beautiful woman (or in rare cases, a man). It’s to the same degree as gorgeous, but it’s definitely not as common as it used to be. You’ll certainly see a lot of pop cultural references though in old movies and songs.
59 More Common Synonyms and Collocations For Beauty
These are in Alphabetical Order with a asterisk* next to ones that I perceive to be more popular
- *Aesthetically Pleasing (adj) is a more objective way to say that it pleases the senses. It’s much more common to use this to describe design than human beings (it’s very objective).
- *Appealing (adj) : Something that is attractive or interesting (it appeals to you). We use this to talk about things and/or ideas, and it doesn’t commonly connote romantic intention with people.
- *Alluring (adj): Something that seduces or lures you in a mysterious way. You can say this about a person or a thing.
- *Amazing (adj): Something or someone that surprises or impresses you (when describing a person, this is more of an in-depth feeling, not strictly external beauty).
- *Angelic (adj)/ an Angel (n): Is another way to describe something of a religious connotation, or, when describing a person, a mystical or sacred type of connection or beauty.
- *Banging (bangin’) (adj) (Banging) is an informal but popular slang expression meaning sexy or hot when describing a person (mainly used to describe women), but can also mean that something is awesome (non-sexual). It comes from the verb bang, which means to hit hard, and can also be a synonym for “to have sex.”
- A Beauty/ A Beaut (n) is to describe a particularly perfect example of something (for things and people), mainly used by men.
- Becoming (adj) is more of an elegant word meaning that it brings out the beauty, such as a nice dress or shirt that makes a person or thing more beautiful. It can also mean that it is appropriate, or fits well with something.
- Beguiling (adj) is a type of beauty that is charming and attractive, but sometimes in a clever or deceptive way.
- Bewitching/Bewitched (adj) has the quality of “casting a spell” on somebody, being hypnotized, or losing control, as is often the case with romantic desires.
- Bootylicious (adj) the name of a famous Destiny’s Child song is a combination of the words booty (butt or ass) with delicious. This is a more “curvaceous” or voluptuous (as referring to a full-figured or bigger woman) form of sexual attractiveness.
- *Breathtaking (adj) is something that takes the breath away and if often used to describe natural beauty or something of extreme grace.
- Buxom (adj) is a particularly voluptuous and/or big-breasted form of feminine beauty.
- *Captivating (adj) is a type of beauty that surprises and holds you captive (prisoner). This is often used to describe people and things that grab you and leave you without control.
- *Charming (adj) is a pleasantly hypnotic aspect of a person that may have more to do with their behavior and/or presence. This is used much more to describe the ideal man (i.e. prince charming) in a romantic sense than a woman. Similar to bewitched and enchanting.
- Comely (adj) is a word that originates from “becoming” and has a similar meaning. This is an attractive combination, or something that fits well together, such as clothes, or a couple that complements each other.
- Dainty (adj) is a delicate or exquisite feminine beauty. This word is a bit old-fashioned and common in old-English literature.
- *Dazzling (adj) is something or someone who dazzles you, or blinds you with a bright and surprising light that confuses your vision.
- Delightful (adj) is something that delights, or pleases you. When talking about beauty, it’s something that pleases the senses.
- *Divine (adj) is a word used to describe a heavenly or sacred type beauty, similar to angelic.
- Doll (n) is a bit of an outdated/old-fashioned adjective to describe beauty or cuteness, most likely originating from toy dolls . It has a connotation of smooth, delicate features, with a hint of innocence. You might see these in old movies.
- Dreamy (adj) is a type of human beauty that invokes a person to daydream (to fantasize about something). Although this word is outdated/old-fashioned, a teenage girl might describe her crush (the person she likes) as dreamy.
- *Drop-Dead (adj) Gorgeous is a common collocation for a woman or man who is so attractive that your heart will stop beating. Drop-dead is only used to describe people.
- * Eye-Catching refers to something that catches/grabs the eyes and attention from people, literally attracting looks from all around. As exemplified
- Easy on the eyes (adj) is a type of beauty that makes it easy to look at that person. It is, of course, an understatement (the presence of something as being smaller). Also Not Hard to Look At.
- *Eye-Candy (n) is an informal slang expression meaning that something tastes good to your eyes, but doesn’t have a lot of depth. Although it is not a bad word, it is very direct and sexual.
- Enchanting (adj) is a beauty or appeal that has the power to enchant, or “casts a spell” over you (uses magic to change your state). This can be used with people and things. Similar to charming and bewitched.
- *Fabulous (adj) is a beauty or appeal that inspires wonder. Similar to wonderful and amazing.
- Fair (adj) is a very delicate form of beauty that comes from old-English (i.e. my fair lady or the ). It also means just, or light-skinned and/or blonde.
- *Fine (adj) is a 90’s slang word meaning sexy or attractive (man or woman), often used by young people.
- *Fly (adj) is a 90’s ghetto slang word that means anything from cool, to sort of a mix between beautiful and cool. It can be used to describe a person or a thing.
- Fetching (adj) is an adjective meaning attractive that comes from old English. ‘To Fetch” literally means “to go get” or “grab.” It can be used for things and people.
- *A Goddess (n) is literally a female deity, but when describing an attractive female it means that she is so beautiful that she has a sacred, divine quality that is almost superhuman.
- Glamorous (adj) means to possess a magical and/or exciting charm, or glamour.
- Glorious (adj) is a type of appeal that evokes splendor, admiration, and glory.
- *Graceful (adj) is an elegant type of beauty, often delicate in appearance or movement.
- *A Head turner (n) is a person so beautiful that they cause people to turn their heads to look at them as they walk or drive past (often causing car accidents).
- Heart-stopping (adj) is an extreme and surprising type of beauty that is said to “stop the heart.”
- *Hottie (adj) is a synonym, often used by adolescents or young people, to describe someone who is sexy and attractive. Urban dictionary defines “hottie” as someone who physically attractive but doesn’t know it yet.
- Hypnotic (adj) is somebody who is so attractive that they hypnotize you in a way that you lose control.
- *Irresistible (adj) is a type of attraction or appeal that cannot be resisted. This is often used to describe a beautiful person, but is also used to describe emotions, feelings, and impulses.
- *A Looker (n) is a synonym for somebody who “looks good,” as in good-looking, typically used to describe a young woman.
- *Luscious (adj) is literally something that tastes good, rich, and sweet. As is often the case, the sensual experience of food transfers over to describe somebody who is sensually attractive.
- *Magnetic (adj) is an attractiveness or appeal that acquires the quality of a magnet, that lures, pulls you toward it.
- *Magnificent (adj) is an impressive and extravagant type of beauty that can be used to describe a person or a thing.
- *Marvelous (adj) is an adjective that literally means to inspire wonder, awe, and admiration. It can be used to describe a strong attraction or appeal toward a person, or a thing.
- *Nice (adj) is a colloquial synonym for beautiful that also means pleasant and enjoyable. When talking about a female (and possibly a male), saying that person is “nice” implies sexual attraction (Australian English).
- *A Perfect 10 (n) is a person (usually a woman) who gets a perfect score on a scale of 1 to 10. This 1 to 10 scale/scorecard is a way shallower men tend to objectify women and give them a superficial grade for their beauty so they can systemize and communicate their conquests with their friends. For example, a 10 is perfect, a 9 could be very beautiful/gorgeous, an 8 is beautiful, a 7 is cute, and a 6 is okay.
- *Ravishing (adj) is an extreme and/or stunning beauty that hypnotizes you.
- Riveting (adj) is something that fully captures your attention in a positive way to the point of losing control.
- Seductive (adj) is a type of beauty that seduces you, attracts you, and tempts you.
- Sensuous (adj) is another word describing purely physical beauty, referring to the appreciation of a person’s physical qualities.
- *Smoking (smokin’ hot) is a person that is so hot (sexy) that smoke emits from them (figuratively). Urban dictionary defines it as “beyond the point of (more than) really hot.”
- *Spectacular (adj) is a type of beauty that is dramatic and impressive, that evokes peoples attention as a spectacle. This is used for both people and things.
- *Striking Beauty (adj) is a common collocation with beauty that describes it as something that strikes, or hits you hard, causing an impact.
- *Sublime (adj) is a type of beauty that is almost spiritual or sacred, and that inspires admiration. This can be used to describe people, but it’s more often used to describe things.
- Taking (adj) is a type of person who captivates (grabs or takes you into possession) with their beauty or charm. This is not commonly used nowadays.
- A Traffic Stopper (n) refers to a person who is so attractive that they stop traffic. Whatever the reason, this is usually a reference to women. This can be used to describe fascinating and beautiful things as well.
- Winsome (adj) describes someone is attractive in physical appearance of character. This is not commonly used nowadays.
- *Wonderful (adj) is a beauty or appeal that inspires wonder, amazement, curiosity.