difference between handsome and cute

Discussion in 'English Only' started by freevers, Apr 19, 2007.

  1. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    What's the difference between describing a female as handsome or cute? And what's the difference between describing a male as handsome or cute?
  2. vachecow Senior Member

    USA English
    Usually males are described as handsome and females are described as cute.
  3. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I think when a male is described as "cute" by a woman it usually means that he is both approachable and attractive. He is neither imposing nor threatening in any way.

    This is just gleaned from experience. I don't have any source to back this up. :)
  4. padredeocho Banned

    United States
    Mark: That little bunny rabbit is so cute!
    Mary: Yes, can you buy it for me.

    Mark: I saw Betty starting at me in class today.
    Mary: It's because she thinks you are handsome, she told me.

    Teacher: Don't get sassy with me, young men, or I will send you to the principal's office. I mean it - don't get cute with me.
    Student: Okay, I'm sorry. I won't mock you any more.
  5. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    Cute can also be a diminutive of a larger item. For example, Cute Ute, which is a smaller version of Sport Utility Vehicle.
  6. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    I was on a post that says "cute" is used to describe adoslescents while "handsome" is used to describe adults, and that "cute" has a slightly feminine ring to it when it is used to describe guys. Is it true? Thanks.
  7. kenny4528

    kenny4528 Senior Member

    Mandarin, Taiwan
  8. swift_precision Senior Member

    As far as I know, a man can be described as both "handsome" and "cute' by a woman. A woman can be described as "cute" by a man, but never handsome, at least here in the United States. Apparently in England they have "handsome" women there. Handsome implies a sort of sophistication about the person--like a masculine sophistication of sorts, while cute implies more of a "boyish" quality--maybe even a bit of innocence perhaps.
  9. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    Is it an insult or is it not a compliment if I say that a man (an adult instead of an adolescent) is "cute" instead of "handsome"?
  10. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English

    This is almost always determined by who is doing the saying. If a pretty, young woman calls a man cute, it is not an insult; it's a compliment.

    If Monica Lewinsky said that Bill was cute, it would be a compliment.

    If a grown man calls another (dismissively) as cute, I would call it an insult.
  11. swift_precision Senior Member

    It would be by no means an insult if you said to man "you are cute" or "you are handsome". Any man would love hearing those words from a woman especially one who he likes. This depends though on how you view the person.
  12. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    You mean how the person being described as "cute" view the speaker?
  13. swift_precision Senior Member


    What I mean is, whether you use "cute" or "handsome" depends on what you think that person is to you, the speaker. However, if you say to a man "you are cute" and the man thinks you are an attractive lady he will feel very excited and happy that you said that. The same thing with handsome. If you said "you are cute" and a man does not necessarily think you are attractive he may still feel good about himself but he would probably feel a bit akward since he does not think you are attractive and thus he wouldn't know what to say back to you. He might just say "thanks" and that's it. lol wow some guys can be cruel now that I think about it. Be rest assured I am not like those other guys.

    Choose whatever word you like.
  14. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    Where I grew up (Panama), people seldom used the word "handsome" to describe others. People always used "cute." Is it the same in other places?

    Thanks so much swift_precision. I didn't know that saying "you are cute" to others can produce different feeling in people.

    Do females say that "you are cute" to guys only when they want to date them?
  15. swift_precision Senior Member

    Las mujeres pueden usar "cute" cualquier instancia, no importa si tienen una cita con el hombre---oops English only.

    A woman or women can say a guy is cute anytime---they don't have to be out on a date or something. It's just a nice way of saying that a guy is attractive.
  16. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States

    May I ask if you're male or female, please?

  17. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    I am female, but don't I appear pretty boring here? ;)
  18. swift_precision Senior Member


    angel you mean you couldn't tell from the posts that she was female? hmm maybe it was my male "intution" that sensed it...
  19. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    I always hear girls describing some guys as being cute. I thought that guys say that "you are pretty/beautiful" instead of "you are cute" to girls. Or was I wrong?

    I don't really know neither whether girls say to each other: "you are cute."
  20. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Aw, freevers, not at all...you appear well, cute. :D

    This is simple to explain between a couple of girly girls like us.

    A young guy will always feel complimented if you tell him he's cute. If he's a guy who likes to think of himself as a little more sophisticated than his buddies, he'd appreciate that you think he's handsome.

    Older men are just like older women. They welcome any kind of compliment about their attractiveness. I would imagine any man over the age of forty would love to be called cute, handsome, sexy, the more positive adjectives, the better.

    The matter of taste and decorum does come into play, though. How you say it and where you are when you say it will really determine how you come across. If you leer at the guy, he's going to read more in your eyes than your words, so you're going to have to decide how you want to present yourself.

    I would also say in general that guys who are boyish looking are considered cute, whereas guys who are rugged and very masculine-looking would be called handsome.

    If you have a specific scenario in mind and want to post it, you'll get even more specific answers.

    When it comes to females, they like to be called pretty, cute, and sexy. Oh, and beautiful. You can tell me I'm beautiful until you're hoarse. In the USA, girls who are close friends compliment each other all the time by telling them they're looking pretty or that they're wearing a sexy outfit. It's not provocative between close girlfriends. It's just being friendly.

    If someone told me I looked handsome, it would depress me, and I'd go out and buy something in pink as fast as I could. :)

  21. swift_precision Senior Member

    AngelEyes you're beautfiul! Unfortunately I can only type it. Freevers AngelEyes explained it best--between women they say it all that stuff all the time "those shoes look cute!!" "that shirt is cute" I dunno to me it sounds a bit overused but women apparently enjoy doing this. Like I said before, you'll never catch a guy saying "you're cute" to another guy unless they're just joking between each other. Likewise, you'll never hear a guy saying what I mentioned above about how "his shoes are cute" or some nonsense. If a guy wants to compliment another on what he is wearing he just says, "dammmmn man!!! yo where u get dem at? O fo real? damn they off the hook bro! Imma have to cop me a pair of dem!" or something to that effect.
  22. padredeocho Banned

    United States
    Yes, however, don't take that thinking too far.

    My husband is so cute - he's afraid of mice!
    My husband is so handsome, so he still turns me on!
  23. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    haha, the above slang is very descriptive ;)

    AngelEyes you are trully beautiful :) I think your username really suits you.

    My roomate once described herself as "girly." I think girls might like to be called girly as well~
  24. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    Is it a bad quality that guys are afraid of mice? and that they might act feminine or the like? But I feel that in the above examples, those are still compliments to her husbands.
  25. freevers Member

    United States/Michigan
    Is it true that "cute" is used to refer to women that are short?

    Sharon wrote at "Embarrasing Question" thread saying the following: "While I agree that cute can be used for either gender, I think that when used in reference with a female, it seems to be mostly used for women that are short.
    Taller women get to be 'stunning,' 'statuesque' and 'leggy.' Shorter women get stuck with cute.

    "You're so cute!" Like puppies and kittens and four year olds."
  26. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    The phrases "cute guy" and "cute girl" are used very often; the former doesn't not imply a man is delicate or has any degree of femininity (good or bad), and the latter can be used for a girl of woman of any body type, so long as she is considered attractive by the speaker.
    I would consider either use of "cute" to be weak, since it has none of the connotations or flavors of words like handsome, rugged, beautiful, gorgeous, lovely, etc. This is due to the fact that "cute" is quite overused.
  27. Aardvark01

    Aardvark01 Senior Member

    Midlands, England
    British English (Midlands)
    As I understand it a handsome man is a physically attractive man (a classical idea of male beauty meaning to have a face in proportion to the hand).

    A cute man or woman can be physically 'comely' (another classical idea meaning agreeable to the eye and by nature) but also has tones of being pleasant or youthful in attitude.

    A woman who is called handsome tends to be one who is dignified, steady or enduring in her bearing and nature. Not so much 'beautiful' as someone you would feel safe with and proud to be around (the implication being 'like a handsome man').

    Some quotes from Google searches:

    The daughter of Fife is 'a handsome lass'

    ...an angular and handsome lass with a genius for giving a false impression of total incompetence...

    ...daughter of a Rarawa chief, a handsome lass with a tattooed chin and a pedigree...

    She was a handsome woman of forty-five and would remain so for many years.
  28. Jaka_Sembung New Member

    Bahasa Indonesia
    I think "handsome" is the common word for indicating a man whose physical look is mature, charming, and attractive. While "cute" indicates a man/woman whose physical look is younger, attractive, and pleasant.

    For example:
    Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Pierce Brosnan are handsome men. It's just a little bit subjective, but, I never heard they are called a cute man. While Elijah Wood is a cute man. He is also a handsome man because his face is charming and attractive either.
  29. Basil Ganglia

    Basil Ganglia Senior Member

    Bellevue, WA
    English - USA
    I think that most men would rather be called "handsome'' than cute. Being called ''cute'' by another man would be an insult (at least among straight males, may or may not be different with gay males).

    I appreciate being called ''cute'' by a woman, but I would much prefer that she describe me as handsome. That has been true for as long as I can remember, extending back to childhood.

    As a man my perception is that a woman might dally with a man who is cute, but she wants to bond with someone whom she finds handsome.
  30. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    I would also say that if you want to bridge the gap between handsome and cute, one word that would do it for both males and females is sexy.

    Since I think every word has levels of meaning, subject to personal interpretation, at some point there's a sub-word that starts to bond most of them together.

  31. mylam Senior Member

    United States English
    No offense, but I definitely do not agree with this statement. :) Thinking someone has a good-looking physical appearance does not equate to finding that person sexually attractive. Sexy can be used for both sexes, yes. But it is not equivalent to either cute or handsome.
  32. Nymeria Senior Member

    English - Barbadian/British/educated in US universities blend
    This pretty much sums it up. :) "Handsome" also has a certain feel of sophistication about it, although it's quite possible for a person to refer to a nicely growing teenager as "such a handsome boy!"

    There are so many other words that are used in compliments or favourable descriptions that I can't even remember the last day that I used "handsome"!
  33. Aardvark01

    Aardvark01 Senior Member

    Midlands, England
    British English (Midlands)
    It is not right to place the two on an equal footing because there is a common element of 'sexy'.

    Cute certainly has a high degree of 'sexy' (sexual attraction) but is more associated with being sexy or cuddly: 'cute as a kitten', 'cute as hell', 'cute as f**k'...

    But handsome has a higher degree of attraction in other ways like security, stability, self control, strength... to which sexuality is subordinate. Hence the saying:
    Handsome is as handsome does (there is a seperate thread on this).

    The bridge from 'sexy' to 'cute' is shorter than the one from 'sexy' to 'handsome'.
  34. Nymeria Senior Member

    English - Barbadian/British/educated in US universities blend
    This has some merit, but it's not a hard and fast rule. "Cute" is often, but not exclusively, applied to persons who have a slightly childlike/doll-like features. That is not to say that they actually look like children, but they have retained some of the qualities that make children endearing e.g big, beautiful, clear eyes; pouty, full lips; cherubic cheeks and round/heart-shaped faces.

    Add small stature to that description and you have a another component of "cute". So that's why the poster probably said that.

    Taller women do have a better chance of being called "statuesque" or "leggy" but shorter women are not always stuck with "cute". There are tonnes of other words that can be used to favourably describe persons and a great deal of meaning can be injected into the word/phrase due to context, tone of voice etc.

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