I'm trying to find an expression (a single word, not a phrase) that means simply that! I'm sure I can't be the only person to feel this. I'm sure I heard it mentioned in a radio programme once but now I can't remember!

This is particularly in relation to something rather than someone - like looking out at a beautiful view of the mountains and feeling that ache in your stomach. (Although I have been known to get it over a pair of shoes!)

  • breathtaking/breathtakingly beautiful?
    – user85526
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 19:55
  • A heart-stopping beautiful view?
    – user66974
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 20:03
  • 1
    A poem waiting to be spoken aloud. Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 20:06
  • Entranced and/or some of its synonyms: enchanted, bewitched, stunned, spellbound, overpowered.
    – R Sahu
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 20:17
  • 2
    Why not achingly beautiful?
    – bib
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 21:07

6 Answers 6


"Excruciatingly beautiful" describes something so beautiful it hurts.

According to the 2nd definition from the FreeDictionary.com, "excruciating" can also mean intense or extreme. If something is so beautiful it causes pain, it could be pain from the sheer intensity of the experience:

  1. causing intense suffering; tormenting.

  2. intense or extreme: excruciating pain.


If you would like to emphasise the achingness of the beauty, I think the go-to phrase would be heartbreakingly beautiful.


"Stunning" may come more or less close. But does not seem to "hurt", it rather "confuses".

Also, I am not sure why "hurt" is associated with something beautiful. Unless, you want to mean hurt by someone else beauty (like in a form of jealousy, or envy)?

(In a positive sense also may be somehow useful: astonishing.)


Also, "Numinous" is an adjective meaning fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted, the powerful, personal feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired.

Though this is not the exact feeling you are trying to name, it's definitely in the ballpark. Now, it has become a quest. Thanks!


For a single word, I would tend to use:

ec·sta·sy [ek-stuh-see]
noun, plural ec·sta·sies.
1. rapturous delight.
2. an overpowering emotion or exaltation; a state of sudden, intense feeling.
3. the frenzy of poetic inspiration.
4. mental transport or rapture from the contemplation of divine things.

"ecstasy." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 21 Jul. 2014. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ecstasy>.

The adjective form of this is ecstatic, which has recently come to the common usage of simply 'really excited.' (At least, by my observation.)

As I recently added in another answer, most words for emotions in english focus on the how/what you're feeling. As such, ecstasy doesn't cover the source of the emotion precisely. For that, you'll have to settle for an adjective phrase.

However, ecstasy does have the common meaning of being sourced from the divine. See The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. I don't have a concise source for this, but beauty has been linked with the divine for millennia. I think that makes it the best single-word for the feeling you describe.


Perhaps, "Aware" (Japanese)

The Meaning: Aware is a word, quite well-known, for the bittersweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty. It's that "last burst of summer" feel, or the transience of early spring.


Though I will continue to scour! This must be described, I concur.

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