If someone says “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” it means that people may have differing opinions on what is beautiful. Indeed, what is pleasing to the eyes of one person might be ordinary or ugly to another; it’s subjective.
Example: The color of Blake’s house has faded, so it looked washed out and dull. To fix this, he wanted to repaint his entire house yellow. After getting the necessary supplies, he worked on this project all week until it was finished. He was pleased with how it turned out.
Later, his brother came over to visit. What would he think of the house’s new color? The brother critiqued the color choice, saying: “This shade of yellow is not appealing to me, I think it’s too bright.” However, Blake disagreed and said: “Well, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because I think it looks stunning!”
The Origin Of ‘Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder’
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, beauty is subjective. For instance, when it comes to things like the clothes we wear, the way we decorate our home, or even the kind of music we listen to, these can all differ from person to person based on their own personal tastes.
There are some things, however, that nearly all people find to be beautiful. For example, most people would agree that a waterfall is nice to look at. Seeing large amounts of water falling off the side of a cliff and splashing into the depths below, now that’s a sight to see. There are also things like sunsets, where warm colors fill the sky. What else? How about a garden full of flowers and diverse plant life, or a star-filled sky on a dark night? Yes, all of these things are a pleasure to behold; they are beautiful!
Anyways, let’s talk about the origin of this phrase. We’ll consider this question: How old is the current form of this expression? According to Wikipedia, it originated in a novel by Margaret Wolfe Hamilton called Molly Bawn, 1878. However, this is definitely not the case, as I was able to find older citations of it. For instance, it makes an appearance in The Garderners’ Monthly and Horticulturist, Volume 16, 1874:
“It is an old axiom, and well said, that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
The earliest citation I could find of this phrase (in its current form) is in a book called The Christian Miscellany, And Family Visiter, published by John Mason in 1863:
“If there be any truth in the old saying, which, however, is generally quoted in a sense very wide of this mark, that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'”
So this saying is at least 150 years old, and considering it’s called an “old saying” in the quote, it’s obviously even older than that.
Tip: There are hundreds of expressions to explore on Know Your Phrase. It’s true, check out our list of phrases starting with “B” for more sayings like this. It’s beautiful!
Examples of ‘Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder’
- George was about to throw away an old piece of furniture that he thought was ugly. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because his mother thought it looked great and she wanted to keep it.
- There’s some odd looking art hanging up in my brother’s house. I think it looks tacky, but beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder since he seems to like it.