What does beauty is in the eye of the beholder mean?

beauty lies in the eye of the beholder

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

You and I have probably heard or said the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” once or thrice. We often make this statement when there is a serious disagreement about our views or the things we appreciate the most.

I went to an art exhibition with two of my favorite friends and a beautiful art piece caught my attention. It is one of those artworks most persons will regard as meaningless, uncool, and ugly. But to me, it was bold, simple, colorful, natural and I could go on and on. I really couldn’t stop admiring the artwork looking at me.


It looked depressing, dull, weak, and unfriendly to my friends- all the bad descriptions you could give to an artwork. What I did was to hit them with the phrase “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”, and they became so shocked and quiet. I bet I shut them up.

When people utter this statement, what they are trying to do is send off a message.

“you are not me and vice versa”

“I do not feel the way you feel about it”

“you will never understand why I see this thing differently”

These 7 words all wrapped into a sentence has the power to cause silence and disagreements. Imagine if someone hits you with the idiom “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. It will be a total silencer for you, but if you are a savage, then you’ll know how to fire back. But, I think you will only come off as anti-social or rude.

Every individual was created differently. And as such, we have different views, perceptions, or notions about things. What Mr. A considers ugly might be beautiful to Mr. B.

But, is beauty really in the eye of the one who chooses to behold it? If it really was, then a portion of land covered in sewage, smelly urine, and all sort of awful waste products will perhaps be beautiful to some persons- they choose to see beauty in it right. And a portion of land with beautiful houses and ornamentals will be hideous.

So many persons have a lot to say about the statement “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Andre, 23, says “beauty does not lie in the eye of the beholder. In fact, it is an offensive statement to say to another human. When someone utters that statement to me, I automatically believe that they mock or disregard my views or ideas on a certain subject. It is really insulting”

Naomi, 31, says “I feel like the person who utters this statement to me is more intelligent, creative, and I am just there”

Before jumping to conclusions, let us better understand what this idiom, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, means.

What does beauty is in the eye of the beholder mean?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder simply means that not everyone considers the most beautiful, as beautiful; different persons have different opinions about what they find attractive or pleasing.

This idiom may not just apply to how a person looks physically, it can also be used to judge how appealing or desirable an item is. For instance, an artwork was really appealing and interesting to me, and to others, it looked boring. Also, what a person perceives as ordinary or imperfect might just be special or perfect to another.

So, the phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder or beauty lies in the eye of the beholder is uttered to express satisfaction or beauty. It is mostly subjective (based on an individual’s personal perspective) and not objective (influenced by observation or factual evidence).

Everyone has different tastes- the way we dress, decorate our homes, or the things we like to see.

Origin of this idiom

You might be wondering who coined this idiom. Well, this phrase dates to a writer named Margaret Wolfe Hungerford. She used it in her 1878 book, Molly Bawn. However, so many philosophers made up a statement that brought about the origin of the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Although they did not use the exact words ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they said something similar.

For example, the Chinese philosopher, Confucius who lived from 551 BC to 479 BC says “everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it”. Other similar phrases include one from a passage from William Shakespeare’s 1588 comedy Love’s Labor’s Lost, “ Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean, Needs not the painted flourish of your praise: Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye, not utter’d by base sale of chapmen’s tongues”. Another similar phrase to beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which was coined by essayist David Hume in 1742. He wrote, “Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them”.

But, Margaret is the first person to coin the statement “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Examples of beauty is in the eye of the beholder sentence

  • My mom bought a painting and claimed it brought light and peace to her room. I shrugged, said it looked like any ordinary painting, and walked away. I could hear her scream “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
  • My sister and I went on a trip. She couldn’t stop talking about the waterfalls at the park. I really don’t understand how she finds it interesting- I guess beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
  • I was about to throw away an ancient mug. Indeed, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because my husband loved the way it looks and the way it made him feel, so he kept it.

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder quotes

  1. The quality of beauty lies in how the beholder values an object- Toba Beta
  2. The value is always in the eye of the beholder. What is worthless to one person may be very important to someone else- Peter Ackroyd
  3. People often say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves- Salma Hayek
  4. A lot of us grow up and we grow out of the literal interpretation that we get when we’re children, but we bear the scars all our lives. Whether they’re scars of beauty or scars of ugliness, it’s pretty much in the eye of the beholder- Stephen king
  5. The experience of beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. The artist’s relation to the object of beauty, how the art makes that happen, is a whole other subject- Peter schjeldahl


The idiom beauty is in the eye of the beholder means that different persons have different views or ideas of beauty. What I find interesting, satisfying, and beautiful may be boring, unappealing, and ugly to another person. It’s really okay if another individual doesn’t seem to understand your perception of some things. Appreciation of beauty is based on an individual’s personal opinions and not on factual evidence.


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