• WordNet 3.6
    • n belles-lettres creative writing valued for esthetic content
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n. pl Belles-lettres Polite or elegant literature; the humanities; -- used somewhat vaguely for literary works in which imagination and taste are predominant.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • belles-lettres Polite or elegant literature: a word of somewhat indefinite application, including poetry, fiction, and other imaginative literature, and the studies and criticism connected therewith; literature regarded as a form of fine art.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • Belles-lettres bel-let′r polite or elegant literature, including poetry, fiction, criticism, æsthetics, &c
    • ***


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
Fr., lit. 'fine letters.'


In literature:

What a mockery of the study of the "humanities" lies in the fact that they were also called "belles lettres" (bellas litteras)!
"We Philologists, Volume 8 (of 18)" by Friedrich Nietzsche
"Rouen, It's History and Monuments" by Théodore Licquet
If Geneva has been the fireside of learning and of belles-lettres, it has not been less the home of the fine arts.
"The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 16, No. 97, November, 1865" by Various
AI = Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres.
"The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria" by Morris Jastrow
The harlots were the Muses of belles-lettres during the Renaissance.
"Lucretia Borgia" by Ferdinand Gregorovius
He devoted a part of his time to belles lettres and the writing of sermons.
"The Journal of Negro History, Volume 4, 1919" by Various
I do think, for a boy brought up on belles-lettres, he's made a decent showing as assistant mineralogist.
"The Brentons" by Anna Chapin Ray
He was a professor of theology, philosophy and belles-lettres.
"The Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. IV (of X)--Great Britain and Ireland II" by Various
For the fine arts, especially for the belles-lettres, he entertained a profound contempt.
"Journeys Through Bookland, Vol. 6" by Charles H. Sylvester
Everett became Professor of Greek in 1815; and George Ticknor, Professor of Belles-Lettres in 1816.
"Union and Democracy" by Allen Johnson

In news:

French TV Closes a Long Chapter on Belles-Lettres .

In science:

Puissance et Limites de la Raison, Les Belles Lettres, Paris, 1995.
Incompleteness, Complexity, Randomness and Beyond
The others were most often misclassified as “Religion” or “Belles Lettres”.
Recognizing Text Genres with Simple Metrics Using Discriminant Analysis