Lexical Investigations: Aesthetician

Aesthetician, Samuel Taylor ColeridgeAesthetician

If you’re not sure which spelling is correct, aesthetician or esthetician, you might be surprised that neither is the original. The word aesthetic became commonly known among English speakers in the 1830s, when translators including Samuel Taylor Coleridge and movements such as transcendentalism popularized German philosophy.Æsthetics, spelled with the joined character “æ” known as a ligature, had been written about extensively by German philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, the latter of whom wrote Æsthetica from 1750-1758. In the mid-nineteenth century, two spellings in English emerged, neither containing the ligature: “aesthetics” and “esthetics.” Though the two letters “ae” together visually resemble “æ,” some linguists consider the single “e” the more accurate alternative. Many words which used to contain an “æ” have over time adopted one or the other simplified spelling. aesthetician and esthetician are interesting because both versions have persisted.

Whom should you visit for a beauty consultation, an aesthetician or an esthetician? That all depends on the type of advice and skills you seek. Typically, an aesthetician (with an “a”) studies aesthetics as an academic discipline, which is the study of beauty and art in philosophical, sociological, and historical contexts. An esthetician (without the “a”) is more likely to be someone trained in cosmetology, skin care, and other beautifying treatments. However, either spelling can be used for either occupation.

Scholars of aesthetics are quick to point out that beauty and art are not one and the same: beauty can be found outside of art, and art does not have to beautiful. Hopefully the esthetician who treats your skin shares your idea of beauty.

Related Quotations:

“The first duty then of the ‘aesthetician’ is to find a definition of art which shall include all its manifestations.”

—Albert Shaw, editor, Review of Reviews and World’s Work, Volume 4 (1892)

“In contrast to Kant, both the neoclassical aestheticians and Coleridge were disinclined to grant art an autonomous realm in which it would be equally emancipated from the dictates of Understanding and from a burdensome and pretentious kinship with Reason.”

— Sanja Šoštarić, Coleridge and Emerson: A Complex Affinity (2003

“In the basics of skincare and makeup application, Michele’s job is similar to that of most other aestheticians.”

—Kathleen Green, You’re a what? Medical aesthetician.” Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Spring 2004 Vol. 48, Number 1. (Accessed 2011)

A motley combination of Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Germanic dialects, the English language (more or less as we know it) coalesced between the 9th and 13th centuries. Since then, it has continued to import and borrow words and expressions from around the world, and the meanings have mutated. (Awesome and awful once meant nearly the same thing.) Some specimens in the English vocabulary have followed unusually circuitous routes to their place in the contemporary lexicon, and this series, Lexical Investigations, unpacks those words hiding in our midst.

Read our previous post in this series about the word sentimental.


  1. Solar Fence -  July 13, 2015 - 4:15 am

    Interesting word with unusual meaning.

  2. Xenon Lights Manufacturer -  July 13, 2015 - 4:14 am

    Wow people are posting anything here in this comment section.

    But my question is, aesthetician sounds similar to Artificial. (pardon my english)

  3. Khabar -  April 3, 2015 - 2:48 am

    It is a charm of language studying that always intrigues people with an equal opportunity to learn from far away. Thanks all concerned to the advanced technologies for mankind. Those who have less privilege to the direct study oversea are now have broader channels to learn.

  4. Akshalt -  June 17, 2013 - 7:37 pm

    this investigation makes a sense of finding a synonym of the word and the content of this article rocks..

  5. NEET results -  May 16, 2013 - 7:19 am

    I have the same question Is aesthetic not synonymous with artificial?

  6. Kathy Robertson -  April 25, 2013 - 11:37 am

    Viral shah Your use of ‘too much’ isn’t correct. The correct word to use is ‘very’ :)

  7. WordManiac -  April 9, 2013 - 1:03 am

    Hi Zentangle Gal,

    I love Zentangles, too. I am just starting them, and there is a five year old boy who is starting them with me.

    I want to say, if you are going to post on the dictionary website, please don’t use apostrophes to apply plurals. Cats rock. Yep. Just like that. Especially stripey ones.

    I work for a very large and complex organization, and my boss and my boss’s boss use apostrophes to apply plurals. It’s almost like there’s a contest to see who can misapply apostrophes with the most frequency and the most damage to the meaning of the sentence. I’ve see communications in which every plural is applied with an apostrophe. And then I’ve seen communications in which the apostrophe-applied plural is willy-nilly: only SOME pluralize words have apostrophes, and the same word in two different sentences will in one case have the apostrophe, in the other case not. Argh! It has become like a like a hair raising shriek to me. I never know when I’m going to encounter it and feel my reading enjoyment and attention drain away.

  8. Ray -  April 8, 2013 - 9:49 pm

    That adjusted (tweaked) vowel and many other cases-of are interesting studies in their own rights:

    -ant, ae-, is a person, property, rank… e.g. “dependant, aeon, primate, aether”
    -ent, e-, is a substance, quantity, order… e.g. “dependence, eon, primitive, ether”

    Perhaps ae/-ligature is halfway: a person titularly implementing a quality, quantity, or order: e.g. “Caesar,” not “Caesor nor Caeser.”

    -or, is the title of responsibility, e.g. editor, legislator (e.g. Mr.)
    -er, is the working performer, e.g. editer, writer (e.g. an app.)

    Even the sound of the vowel has a designative intensity: o (so strong it was a vowellike ‘liquid’ in vowelless archaic written languages), a (medium), e (lightweight).

    And then there’s also–
    -ible, passive sense. e.g. “edible, tangible”
    -able, active sense, e.g. “capable, flammable”

  9. bob -  April 8, 2013 - 10:43 am

    ur so right they are the most amizing in the world *-*

  10. stan -  April 8, 2013 - 10:42 am

    i love pugs i love them so much the fat one are the most amizing in the world :The Meixan XD

  11. Gjones -  April 8, 2013 - 7:28 am

    Ole TBoy, this site isn’t limited to a single nationality. Hundreds of millions of persons around the world can access it. Maybe they’d rather spend their time contemplating beauty, though — or arranging someone’s hair — rather than commenting on words. (My guess too, though, is that they’re eating pizza, drinking beer, and racing down the highway. Keep an eye out for them!)

  12. heng piao lan -  April 8, 2013 - 5:53 am

    @ochidi, you are probably thinking of ‘prosthetic’ instead.

  13. tchassis -  April 7, 2013 - 6:04 pm

    RE: Ole TBoy
    >>Could there be a better demonstration of how Philistine a nation this country is?

    What country would that be exactly?

  14. Benj -  April 7, 2013 - 3:44 pm

    Very punny Bubba.

    For those who don’t know, a ligature is also a cord or wire used to choke someone. I do need to point out thought that symbol ligatures are not simply obsolete letters. According to this website they are symbols that represent two or more letter symbols. In a professional typeface (family of fonts) you will find they will carry a complete set of these letter symbols because they help to save space and make type more elegant. this is important in typesetting for books, creating perfectly spaced large type in titles, and for accurately typing words that call for them. Knowing how to utilize ligatures will set the professional designer apart from say your typical MS office user or an amateur graphic designer.

  15. CC -  April 7, 2013 - 1:21 pm

    @Ochidi I think you’re recalling “synthetic”.

    Great article, thank you for sharing this wonderful information.

  16. Andrés Rieloff -  April 6, 2013 - 11:07 am

    Well here is one of the many I made up and have been using.”Ignoarrogant” from ” Ignoarrogance”. It is said of someone who is not only “ignorant” but “arrogant” about it,whatever the subject, conversation or discussion,and in a manner of being adamant,insistent,unyielding,loud,threatening,some even to the point of violence to boot.A patented and licensed “JERK”there you have it, a new way of humorously describing these idiots,watch out! plenty of them out there.AND THEY VOTE!

  17. anna aravantinou -  April 6, 2013 - 4:47 am

    You do not mention that the word is derived from the greek verb αισθάνομαι (aisthanomai) . See LSJ.

  18. Zentangle Gal -  April 4, 2013 - 8:41 pm

    I’d just like to say that I think this article is very interesting because I know that in Russian and Ukrainian there is a letter that is pronounced differently, and both letters ‘died out’ as in, there use is very, very rare nowadays. Just like for people to know that. Thanks.

    Oh yeah and cat’s rock. And so do ‘Zentangles!’

  19. Ole TBoy -  April 4, 2013 - 6:23 pm

    After two days of being posted on Dictionary.com the info on Aesthetician has generated only eight (now nine) responses. Could there be a better demonstration of how Philistine a nation this country is? Our national concern for “beauty” pales against our mindless passion for pizza, beer, auto racing, dancing with the stars and every other kind of trivia pursuit the entertainment industry waves before our eyes like a red flag before a bull.

  20. Al Legory -  April 4, 2013 - 4:25 pm

    Thanks again for the morsels if information that are wandering serendipitously in the folds of our white matter, eager to penetrate the creamy sheath and enter the subterranean universe that is the subconscious, and wait for that moment in time when we delve deep into its vast vacuousness to pick them out when we are quizzed by a smarmy suit on an egotistical facade of game show. Such is life, eh Ned/ Caesar/ Napoleon/ Snowball/ Dell Boy!?

  21. franklin -  April 4, 2013 - 1:56 pm

    i want to creat noun and that word that last for 1830s is very strange to and that of my noun is huhudious

  22. Bubba -  April 4, 2013 - 11:27 am

    Didn’t I recently hear of a famous person or celebrity or some-such, found dead, with a ‘ligature around his neck’? Well, I’ve choked on my words more than once or twice, but being strangled to death by an obsolete letter? Really! I’ts enough to make me gag.

  23. ochidi -  April 4, 2013 - 5:55 am

    Is aesthetic not synonymous with artificial?

  24. Viral Shah -  April 4, 2013 - 12:02 am

    Lexical words are very much useful in the words. I am too much enthusiastic in the development of English language and I am from India.

  25. yd_Silom -  April 3, 2013 - 10:41 pm

    It is a charm of language studying that always intrigues people with an equal opportunity to learn from far away. Thanks all concerned to the advanced technologies for mankind. Those who have less privilege to the direct study oversea are now have broader channels to learn.

  26. .-. -  April 3, 2013 - 10:34 pm

    It has some Latin in it I think

  27. Kartoffel -  April 3, 2013 - 10:32 pm

    What the hell does
    “de cao, lam noi bat” mean in the dynamo things?

  28. AESTHETICIAN | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  April 3, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    [...] ‘Aesthetician’, esthetician simplified as opposed to a mortified mortician — You Look Marvelous — All the Same — Esthetically pleasing by technical applications — Mayhap just alive — Or in the Eye of the beholder — Marvelous is what he told her. –>>L.T.Rhyme This entry was posted in DICTCOMHOTWORD, L.T.Rhyme and tagged LT, LTRhyme, the HOT WORD on April 3, 2013 by LTRhyme. [...]

  29. Jim Baird -  April 3, 2013 - 4:41 am

    It is interesting how a word can change the meaning as the word “a”, is there many words like that ?


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