Social Question

rebbel's avatar

Is there a difference between handsome and beautiful?

Asked by rebbel (23443 points ) July 26th, 2011

In JLeslie’s question about calling children beautiful, yes or no there is an answer where it is said that the girls are being called beautiful and the boys handsome.
Do their definitions differ?
Can boys only be handsome and girls only beautiful?
Are they the male and female versions of the same meaning?

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26 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

I have always considered them as male and female equivalents. Boys are beautiful until they reach age 2, at least for me, then they are handsome.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Handsome is traditionally more masculine and beautiful is traditionally more feminine.
I use them for both men and women interchangeably.

Blackberry's avatar

Male and female; anything else is just however the person wants to use them. You could call a dog handsome if you really wanted to.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I call my cats handsome every day.

In my opinion “beautiful” has more power than “handsome.” Beautiful implies that something is full of beauty. “Handsome” is more like saying something is nice to look at. It doesn’t seem to have the same punch.

wundayatta's avatar

Handsome is manly good looks. If you tell a girl she is handsome, you are suggesting she looks manly. Most women don’t like that. But women of a certain age sometimes prefer that to nothing at all.

Beautiful is for girls, of course. If you tell a boy he is beautiful, you’re asking for trouble. Maybe if he’s gay, he might go for it, but mostly a boy will hate being called beautiful, unless he was raised in a liberated family.

tom_g's avatar

If we’re strictly talking about physical beauty, then others have covered it above. If we’re talking about a beautiful person or a beautiful act done by a male or female, the word beautiful works just fine for me. My 2 sons are as beautiful as my daughter. When my oldest son gets all dressed up in some outfit he picked out, I’ll compliment him about how handsome he is.

marinelife's avatar

Male and female equivalent words.

rebbel's avatar

Thanks for that, you are all pretty!

Hibernate's avatar

I use both for any sex. Though I don’t use beautiful that much.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve always thought of handsome as striking but not necessarily beautiful and I’ve learned it and used it to refer to both male and females. When it comes to beautiful though, that’s been females or femininely attractive males.

mangeons's avatar

I’ve always just thought of them as male and female equivalents, and it’s the most common usage I’ve seen as well.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think it’s ridiculous to have words separated by gender so I call all children beautiful and all adults beautiful as well.

Seelix's avatar

I think most people consider “handsome” to be a masculine term while “beautiful” is considered to be a feminine term. Silly, though.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’ve heard/read the term “a handsome woman” used for older women (like 60+) who are still relatively good-looking compared to their peers.

Only138's avatar

I think Handsome (men) and Pretty (women) are equals. Beautiful (women) to me, is a step above pretty.

Porifera's avatar

@Only138 What then would be the equivalent of beautiful for men who are above handsome?

aprilsimnel's avatar


OMG, I’ll make any excuse to post this.

Porifera's avatar

@aprilsimnel I’ll take that and I raise you to THIS!!

Blackberry's avatar

I’m going all in with this!

josie's avatar

Beatiful refers to anything in nature, a beautiful sunrise, a beautiful coastline, as well as human beings or other living things etc.
Handsome is a description of living things, a handsome man, horse dog etc.

emeraldisles's avatar

I prefer to use studly and stunning.

Pandora's avatar

Yeah, try telling a young boy he is beautiful. In his mind you might as well as called him a girl.
Or call a young girl handsome and she thinks you mean she is masculine looking or plain.

Sunny2's avatar

Think of other things for which we might use the words: beautiful is flowers, a sunset or sunrise, a song, a dress. Handsome is a polished piece of furniture, a suit, a set of luggage, a chess set, a leather chair. English articles are neither masculine nor feminine, but with the connotation of the two words, to me, beautiful is more feminine and handsome is more masculine. Even as I say that, I can think of beautiful men and handsome women. And both in a complimentary way.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Bellatrix's avatar

I call my husband beautiful on occasions and my daughters. I don’t see beautiful as just being about how someone looks. Some people have a beauty that shines out of them and it is more than being handsome or pretty.

martianspringtime's avatar

I’ve called boys beautiful and girls handsome before. To me personally, I have different connotations for them but I don’t think they’re gender-exclusive whatsoever. ‘Beautiful’ indicates a more sort of ethereal type of look, if that’s the right word. ‘Handsome’ is perhaps more dignified and with stronger features. I would say that George Clooney is handsome, as well as Meryl Streep. I would say that Gaspard Ulliel is beautiful, as well as Christina Hendricks.
‘Beautiful’ can also refer to personality, while ‘handsome’ is definitely a physical description to me.

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