I. plural noun — [also treated as sing.] 1. essays, particularly on literary and artistic criticism, written and read primarily for their aesthetic effect. • he inspired me with the desire to restore writing on art to nineteenth century belles-lettres.
‹derogatory› elegant dabbling in belles-lettres.
II. derivatives 1. belletrism /bɛlˈlɛtrɪz(ə)m / noun
2. belletrist noun
3. belletristic /ˌbɛləˈtrɪstɪk / adjective
– origin mid 17th cent.: from French, literally ‘fine letters’.