24

Is there a word to imply when someone used to be beautiful back in the day? I thought of 'ex-beauty' but sounds too harsh. (Though either way it will be inappropriate for the modern age) it's for 60s literature.

  • For the sixties hip, you could go with some variant of dishy. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dishy – Phil Sweet Feb 17 '17 at 14:20
  • Perhaps bygone beauty. – alfreema Feb 18 '17 at 15:54
  • no single word for this in English, afaik. "60s lit" is not very clear. – user175542 Feb 18 '17 at 21:07
  • 2
    past their prime (for beauty) – Drew Feb 19 '17 at 2:46
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    When you say someone, do you mean a woman specifically, or do you just mean people in general? I ask because this will help guide answerers on this rather broad question. – tchrist Feb 19 '17 at 2:58

12 Answers 12

60

Might I suggest a faded beauty?

Definition: A woman who was beautiful in the past.

I'd also extend it to any commonly thought to be beautiful item, such as curtains, embroidery, furniture or towns.

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/faded

  • 4
    Yes, and in the right context, this can be shortened to "faded". – Michael Stern Feb 17 '17 at 19:57
  • +1, that's the word that jumped to my mind as soon as I saw the question title on the hot questions list – htmlcoderexe Feb 18 '17 at 23:00
22

Once-beautiful is the expression you want. See https://www.wordnik.com/words/once-beautiful

14

For men, the expression former heartthrob seems to be a favourite, but gossip magazines tend to limit themselves by saying someone has aged badly

The expression former beauty queen is well known, and in the past I have heard of actresses being defined former beauties. However, it is (or should be) considered sexist and disrespectful towards women in general and I would avoid telling any woman friend that she was a beauty in her heyday. But on the web, I found a few references:

  1. Known as “the first supermodel,” D______ was certainly a beauty in her day.
  2. The former heartthrob became a household name with the films Top Secret! and Top Gun.
  3. Former beauty T_____ was diagnosed with arthritis, ...
  4. Former blonde bombshell and “sex kitten” (very 1960s and '70s)
  5. Greta Garbo in her heyday
  6. Elizabeth Taylor, the actress considered the world's most beautiful woman in her heyday, ... (source)
  • 1
    There are a lot of good options in this answer (so +1), but aged badly may be off the mark, depending on what exactly the asker means. The question isn’t clear, but being a former beauty doesn’t necessarily imply aging badly—even aging well will include the conventional beauty of youth fading. Many of the Hollywood starlets of the classical era, for instance (like Greta Garbo and Elizabeth Taylor here) may be described by many of these options, but you wouldn’t say they aged badly—the beauty of their youth just inevitably faded. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 19 '17 at 11:30
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Gossip magazines devote entire pages to celebs who have aged badly, (their words not mine) implying that these celebrities were once handsome, sexy and good looking. Then there's the familiar cliche "She's aged gracefully" or "growing old gracefully" – Mari-Lou A Feb 19 '17 at 11:36
  • Agreed—aging badly is definitely a thing; and I didn’t say that it was definitely off the mark, only that it may be. It’s not clear from the question whether the ‘used to be beautiful’ in the title is meant in direct opposition to someone who is now decidedly not beautiful, or if it’s just meant to describe someone who is now older and thus not considered as conventionally as they were when they were young. Most of your suggestions work fine in both scenarios, except aged badly, which only works in the first. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 19 '17 at 12:00
11

You can use the term erstwhile, depending on how you are referring to it. For example:

Though now old and grey, the audience remembered her erstwhile beauty.

From Wiktionary:

(Adjective) erstwhile:

Former, previous

There's also What is the meaning and usage of “erstwhile”? for further reading here on English.SE.

  • @MarcusMüller Considering OP is looking for a word to describe an "ex" beauty, I'd say it's exactly what he's aiming for. – TylerH Feb 17 '17 at 20:46
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    If I had to sharply formulate that (and I'm just doing this as productive criticism, I do think "erstwhile beauty" sounds nicer than "former beauty"), you're trying to hide a statement behind a pompous choice of words, and that's not a style I consider great in literature. – Marcus Müller Feb 17 '17 at 20:48
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    But if "former beauty" is too harsh, than it's probably not because the exact choice of "former" as is is too hard, but because the author wants to describe the person as still showing reminiscence of said beauty. – Marcus Müller Feb 17 '17 at 20:49
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    @MarcusMüller OP could also mean the words sound "harsh" when spoken and wants a word that's nicer to say/listen to, not one that's less offending of the sensibilities. It is a bit open-ended, I'd say. – TylerH Feb 17 '17 at 20:51
  • But thinking about this, I'd agree that this is pretty much speculation on my side, so meh, you might as well hit the nail on its proverbial head – if only OP's question showed signs of characterization – Marcus Müller Feb 17 '17 at 20:52
7

The formerly beautiful person as gone to seed.

From Wiktionary:

go to seed

(of a plant) To pass from flowering or ripening to the formation of seeds.  

(figuratively, by extension) To deteriorate; to decline into an unkempt or debased condition.

For example, from UK newspaper the Daily Mail comments here on aged tennis stars:

Gone to seed? You cannot be serious: How age caught up with the aces

5

" the fading shadows of her former beauty" Jane Austin referred to "women of a certain age" as still possessing a shadow of their former youth and beauty to indicate that while Time had been kind to them, the relentless progression of time and the merciless process of aging had still taken their toll. Another phrase she uses is " she was still a very handsome woman" to indicate that while a female was no longer in the first flush of youth and beauty she was still a formidable and attractive middle aged woman and not yet unpleasantly aged (aka hatchet-faced) or to be mistaken for a dowager ( elderly or grandmotherly figure) in her dotage.

2

Although I think “former” from this answer hits the spot, since you say that you’ll be writing from the perspective of a specific time period (the ’60s), maybe you could capture the notion of “former” by referring to an earlier decade:

His/Her 1950s pin[-]up[-]worthy appearance/good looks took a hit during the ’60s.

Additionally, if appropriate to your storyline, you could emphasize the double entendre of “taking a hit [during the ’60s]” with:

Both he/she and his/her 1950s pin[-]up[-]worthy appearance/good looks took many a hit during the ’60s.


Definition of PINUP (FROM MERRIAM-WEBSTER)
1. : something fastened to a wall: such as

a : a photograph or poster of a person considered to have glamorous qualities

(see the use of “pin-up worthy” in the title of this USA Today article: “Chris Pine is positively pin-up worthy in 'Wonder Woman' set picture”)

take a hit (from *Macmillan Dictionary) – 2: to suffer damage or loss

And for the purposes of the double entendre:

take a hit (from The Free Dictionary by Farlex) -
inhale through the nose
snort
do drugs, drug - use recreational drugs

2

I'd use something along the lines of

showing reminiscence of …

might be what you're aiming for – but that's a wild guess based on purely fictional background (that you've missed to give in your question).

1

marred the participle, often used adjectivally, of mar:

to damage or spoil to a certain extent; render less perfect, attractive, useful, etc.; impair or spoil:

Hence marred means less perfect or attractive than the subject once was.

0

the tactful way to say it is "dignified". you could also go with distinguished, stately, etc. maybe "well-preserved."

  • 3
    I don't think any of these quite say "used to be beautiful". I get the tactful intent, but, like the OP stated, It's for 60s literature, not modern usage. – Hank Feb 17 '17 at 20:42
  • @Hank: 60s lit? i don't know what that means. you mean like saul bellow, john o'hara, gore vidal, samuel beckett? louis auchincloss? ayn rand? betty crocker? – user175542 Feb 18 '17 at 20:55
  • I'm not sure, ask the OP. I think it means back in the 60s when language like that was acceptable and PC wasn't a thing. – Hank Feb 18 '17 at 20:57
  • @Hank: PC was always a thing. it nay change but it's always there. – user175542 Feb 18 '17 at 20:59
  • @Hank in any case, English does not to my knowledge have a single word that captures "used to be beautiful". i'll bet some other language does. think "schadenfreud". – user175542 Feb 18 '17 at 21:02
0

What about "withered" or "wilted beauty"? In the right "flowery" context it might sound nice (although without context it sounds harsh to me).

0

Hit the Wall e.g., 'She hit the wall two years ago when she reached her 30th birthday." (Hit the wall--the point at which a woman that used to be hot has begun to lose her looks, usually due to aging. (Urban Dictionary)

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