Recently a spat took place about the understanding of the word cute. One commentator felt that the word cute is usually associated with a child and not an adult woman. It seems that some people have learnt a set sentence, for example, the baby is cute; the dog is cute. This is the correct usage of the word cute, but when it comes to the English language one word rarely has one meaning. It is far from the truth to say that the word cute is usually only associated with attractive-looking children, cats and dogs.

The root of the problem for people outside the United Kingdom and the USA is which system of language do they follow and understand. I suggest learning both language systems. So when you learn a new word, learn how the British understand it and how the Americans understand it. There can be a world of difference in meaning, usage and expressions.

The word cute can additionally mean that someone is hot in the sense of sexually attractive. It can also mean that a person can deal with something cleverly. Cute is a word that has been popular in the US throughout the 20th century to mean nice, attractive, good. It is cute is a frequent refrain in spoken American English. Even in the 21st century, cute is frequently the word of choice.

In America, cute can mean a wholesome quality such as the nice young lady who lives next door. Cute may also be used as a forgiving term when a person still looks fairly nice but may be a little on the overweight side.

Cute people make good boyfriends/girlfriends. You are at a party and you meet a person with a nice personality or gracious manners. Later on you are asked whether you liked him. You may reply: He is cute. Cute people are the ones you would consider having a long-term relationship with and perhaps even marry. You might tell your relatives that your boyfriend or girlfriend is cute but confide in your friends that he/she is so hot.

In informal English, cute is used to describe someone’s appearance and/or their personality characteristics. Cute people have wholesome qualities, are reasonably attractive and possible relationship material. Cute is nice, both physically and personality wise. Idioms also have an impact on the language and cute in idiomatic form such as, as cute as a button means she,he or it is extremely attractive. The idiom meaning can take on a life of its own and infuse new meaning into a word. As a result the word cute has developed to mean very attractive or sexually attractive that applies to both sexes in the US.

Always remember British English is the root of American English. Cute came into the language as an abbreviation of the word acute. Acute means an intense or pleasant feeling. Over a period of time, the word cute came to mean pretty. Now it means attractive and appealing.

Understanding comes from usage, and as it has been applied to lovable children and pets, we think of the word as applying to small things. Thus usage has extended the word to describe a nice, cozy room. We call it a cute bedroom, for example. In British English, more often, it seems that the word is used when thinking of someone or something that is small or young, but is pleasant and attractive.

Some people seem to the have a strict mindset that the word cute usually applies to young children, not mature ladies. They are not totally correct in their thinking but as there are millions of non-native speakers, when dealing with non-native speakers it may be best to use cute to mean a lovely child and adorable pet, and another word to mean a really good-looking woman. You are not wrong in your usage but avoiding misunderstandings and communicating well are more important.

Author's Bio: 

Susan McKenzie is a London-trained lawyer and English teacher. Susan teaches at Linguaphone in Singapore. For enquiries about the courses Tel: 8455 8534, Email: and Read articles written by Susan at