So, I have been noticing (disturbingly of late) that there is a lot of favouritism being shown towards beautiful people in all walks of life. One of the most visible of such fields is all forms of advertising where we rarely see ugly people being hired for promoting a product or a service unless of course, they are the target audience.

Is there a term to denote such prejudice against ugly people or favouritism towards beautiful people much like "racism" has come to denote "prejudice directed against someone of a different race"?

I have Googled a lot of phrases which can denote such a phenomenon, but haven't been able to find an appropriate term to represent it, much less know if it exists at all.

  • 5
    How about "real life"?
    – Robusto
    Jan 30, 2013 at 18:39
  • :) Witty but not what I am looking for!
    – Mohit
    Jan 30, 2013 at 18:41
  • Do "shallow" or "superficial" not work for you? Beauty is, as the saying goes, only skin deep.
    – prash
    Feb 1, 2013 at 17:19
  • Any different than preference for beautiful things (other than people)?
    – GEdgar
    Feb 1, 2013 at 18:28

4 Answers 4


Lookism is often used to describe appearance-based discrimination:

Lookism is a term used to refer to the positive stereotypes, prejudice, and preferential treatment given to physically attractive people, or more generally to people whose appearance matches cultural preferences. The pejorative term body fascism is also used as a synonym and Warren Farrell has proposed the term genetic celebrity to describe adoration of the attractive.

I've also seen the term beauty bias bandied about every now and then in discussions about the physical attractiveness stereotype, "a term that psychologists use to refer to the tendency to assume that people who are physically attractive also possess other socially desirable personality traits". In other words, being beautiful can also be a disadvantage (which is the exact opposite of your contention).

  • 1
    Could you revert your incorrect revert of "of late" in the question please?
    – deadly
    Feb 1, 2013 at 16:23
  • @deadly Done. Whoopsie. Feb 1, 2013 at 16:33
  • 1
    Is that still in popular use? I haven't heard this ridiculous word since the very early 1990's.
    – Kaz
    Feb 1, 2013 at 18:28
  • @Kaz Yes, it is :) Feb 1, 2013 at 18:32
  • 1
    A simple Google search turned up lookism used in this article.
    – Gnawme
    Feb 1, 2013 at 18:58

As @coleopterist says, there's lookism. But I'd never heard of it before, and the meaning wouldn't necessarily be obvious to me unless context made it clear - even though it does follow the normal pattern (sexism, racism, ageism, etc., where the actual attribute preceding -ism is "neutral").

So although it's less prevalent (only 6K hits in Google, as opposed to 160K for lookism), I think...

uglyism - a form of discrimination based on people’s physical beauty [or lack thereof]

...has something to commend it. I hadn't heard of that either, but it seemed a natural word to search for, and I wasn't surprised to find plenty of references. For example, the huffingtonpost uses it, and plenty of people read that.


I am not sure if these are commonly known but here are a couple of terms:

appearance bias

beauty bias

The sources I have linked may not be very helpful, but I hope the terms convey the idea.


Followers of the political correctness movement usually believe in the doctrine that discrimination comes from fear, and so then various -phobia words are used to denote discriminations. For example, hatred of homosexuals is really a fear, hence homophobia. With that in mind, is there a word that refers to fear of ugliness or ugly people? Evidently, yes: cacophobia.

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