Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell someone that beauty is subjective? If that’s the case, you could use the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this proverbial saying.

Meaning

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” means that everyone’s view of beauty is subjective, and there is no general standard of beauty. What one person finds beautiful, others may find ugly, and vice versa.

Example Usage

“Did you see that new gold coin launched by the mint? I think it’s the ugliest coin ever, but people are buying it in droves. Well, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

“Did you she Shana’s boyfriend? He’s not the best-looking guy in the world. They seem happy, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess.”

“Look at that painting; how can anyone find that visually appealing? I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just because you don’t think she’s pretty doesn’t mean that she isn’t.”

Origin

The origin of the saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” comes from the author, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (née Hamilton). Hamilton would use the pseudonym “The Duchess” for much of her career. Her book “Molly Brawn,” published in 1878, features the saying in its modern format.

While this might be the first modern appearance of the saying in literature, experts think it has a much deeper root in language. Some experts believe it extends back to at least 3 BC in the times of the Ancient Greeks.

Shakespeare also used a similar saying in his 1588 play, “Love’s Labours Lost.”

Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye, Not utter’d by base sale of chapmen’s tongues.”

Benjamin Franklin would also use a rendition of the phrase in his 1741 writings “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” where it appears.

Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion.”

David Hume would also use a rendition of the saying in his 1742 work, “Essays, Moral and Political,” which reads as follows.

Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.”

Phrases Similar to Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

  • One man’s meat is another’s poison.
  • To each their own.

Phrases Opposite to Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

  • Everyone finds that beautiful.
  • Universally accepted.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  • Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

Ways People May Say Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder Incorrectly

Some people may use the rendition of the phrase as “beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.” This rendition of the expression appeared in the 1980s as a reference to “Beer goggles,” a condition where people appear more attractive after a few drinks.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

You can use the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” when referring to anything that doesn’t have much aesthetic value but seems appealing to a niche group of people. For instance, if you think that your friend’s sweatshirt has a terrible design, but they love it, you could say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” If you’re looking at an ugly copper statue of someone, you could say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” when discussing the artists and their vision for the project.

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