Petite Women, Not Just The Cute

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Ann Lauren® Bella Petite Magazine Copyright©

“Cuteas a button!”  “Cute” as a bug’s ear!”  “Cute” as a bug in a rug!” After writing these idioms down on paper and actually seeing the sentences, I can now understand why some women, especially petite women, have attached a negative connotation to the word “cute,” over the years. By any means, how is a bug’s ear cute?


So let’s delve into this word a little deeper. Where did the word “cute” come from?  When was it first used?  And, why does it now carry an undertone or indirect meaning when used as a compliment?

Well, first a little history – the word “cute” is interestingly enough derived from, and is the aphetic form of “ACUTE.”You may be asking yourself, “How in the heck can these two words be related?“ Cute, meaning “keenly perceptive or discerning and shrewd,” was first recorded and published in a dictionary back in 1731. 

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The word cute, etymologist’s believe, became a term of approval for things indicative of acuteness. If anything, the word “cute” is a perfect example of how one word can form and mean something totally different, and at the same time become dissociated from the word from which it was derived.  It wasn’t until 1834 that the casual sense of attractiveness or pleasing was recorded as an American English student’s slang word – hmm, go figure!

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By 1930, the word cute word almost always had an implied connotation of being “small,” as the aforementioned idioms above portray. As a test, ask yourself this – How many times have you used the word “cute” to describe something little, like a child or a puppy…or even an apartment?

Or, perhaps you’ve used the word “cute” as a safe word when you’re faced with an awkward situation or something (or someone) that does not appeal to your liking?  Come on girls…let’s be honest, you know what I’m talking about!


Okay, here’s one scenario where “cute” becomes a negative:

It’s a Saturday night and you and a girlfriend have been invited to a big-time Hollywood premiere.  You both are aware that there will be producers, agents, and actors running rampant and that this could be your big chance!  Both of you are frantically running around, trying this on… on, adding more makeup, fixing your hair, all the while yelling out random adjectives to one another so fast…it sounds like you’re both speaking in tongues!

Then, finally, the moment!  The moment when your friend asks the dreaded question:  “How do I look?”  You notice the finished product is anything, but subtle or “attractive,” given she is 5’2″ and is wearing a mini-skirt along with thigh-high boots – you secretly cringe but remember you’ve already slurred out pleasantries while she was incoherently fussing about, (or so you thought). 

Now you are stuck with the dilemma of whether, or not you’re going to tell her like it is, or, have the angst-ridden duty of saying something positive and nice, even though she looks unsightly (come on now, we’ve all been there, LOL!) – SOyou start to utter, with the most ingenuous intonation, “Oh, you look so CUTE!” (enunciating each letter of the word “cute” as well as pronouncing it as if it were spelled with 5-U’s)! Need I say more?

Cute has also been associated with being “quaint,” which we all know can mean peculiar, odd, or weird. I, on the other hand, being an ex-valley girl from California, would say, “Trippy,” if something was odd or peculiar.  I, personally, cannot wrap my brain around using the word “cute” to describe anything weird.

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Unfortunately, industry supermodels like Tyra Banks refer to petite models as both “cute and childlike.” Then during their “shorty cycle” with petite models (5’7″ and shorter), Tyra produces a children’s stylized photoshoot with “wagons and diapers”, no joke!  Then she makes the petite models live in a literal rendition of a “playhouse” with adult-sized toys!  At least she filled the penthouse with candy!

No wonder Bella Petite Editor Ann Lauren dropped out from being a judge…


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The word “cute, still considered a positive word in the dictionary, thrown out in the context of a compliment towards a petite girl, an older woman, or even a man for that matter, not only borders on insulting (so I’ve discovered in my research), but invokes feelings of wonderment as to what was really meant? It’s really quite contrived when you stop and think about it.

Unfortunately, petite women are often labeled as “cute, cuddly, sweet, fragile, unintelligent, unattractive and even sometimes weak.” On the contrary – petite women are “beautiful, intelligent, focused, and strong!” Just look at our own Editor-in-Chief, Ann Lauren!  She is all of these adjectives and more! Albeit she often hears from the fashion and beauty crowd, how petite fashion and models will never be accepted and respected by the industry.  Aren’t we lucky that Ann is smart and strong enough to believe otherwise?

I feel, because of the ignorant presumption that “small or petite” women are weaker, have low self-esteem, and feel inferior to tall women,  we’ve had to be our own self-motivators, boost our own egos, use all our senses and engage our minds fully from an early age, just to prove wrong this preconceived idea that we are just cute. We have to be smarter, be stronger, and demonstrate that “small is beautiful (not just simply cute),” that we can do anything we set our minds to, and that indeed, “Dynamite comes in small packages!”  We’ve learned to represent and present our positive attributes of being petite, and therefore, have become very tenacious women!

“Charming…pretty…attractive!” These are some of the synonyms I want to hear when describing my persona, as well as my outward appearance. When I looked this word up in the Encarta Dictionary, the first adjective meaning of “cute,” listed: attractive in a childlike way – endearingly attractive in the way that some children and young animals are.”

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It’s not until you dig deeper, which is normally the case with anything, that you find out the true meaning of something or someone as I did with this word! 

Let’s face it, “CUTE” is just not an appropriate word to define “adult” beauty of any kind.  Nor is it a proper word to define a “petite woman,” and that is the opinion we are sharing with this article. Petite women are beautiful!  Yes, Bella Petite Magazine wants petite women to feel better about themselves than Vogue Magazine would express. 

Written by: Tana Corporon

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42 thoughts on “Petite Women, Not Just The Cute”

  1. Who'd have thought there was so much behind a seemingly benign word? I'll have to be more mindful how I use it. Great article!

    1. I agree Nancy – I really didn't take notice to it myself until a very beautiful petite woman pointed it out to me. There was a study done in 2004, and described in "What men and women blog about," ('07) saying that the word "cute" was the TENTH most feminine word used (after hubby, husband, adorable, skirt (go figure that one??), boyfriend, mommy, yummy, kisses and gosh). I'm glad it wasn't the first or second most feminine word used — there is hope!! Thanks for your compliment and comment!!

  2. I'm surprised that there's only one response so far. What we really need is to educate people that "cute" for anyone over, say, 3 is in no way appropriate (I can't tell you how many times people have said 'but you petite ladies have such cute clothes!' (ummm, really? Most petite lines are grannyish). I mean, you won't call a 3 year old a baby, would you? "Little" isn't appropriate, either (I know, I know, it's cultural – there are a lot of southern women i've met who're guilty of this…many call anyone/thing small 'the little _____' (especially elderly women)).

    1. Absolutely Cynthia! Educate the people, lol, not only about the word "cute," but about the power, the intellect and the beauty that "petite" women possess! As Ann Lauren says, "we must break the industry standards" that only tall, emaciated women only fit the profile of being a high fashion
      "runway model." Thanks for your comment! Keep reading Bella Petite for more stories and tips!

  3. I will have to agree with your "“CUTE” OUT OF CONTEXT", as having a petite daughter of my own. But let us take this just a little further and include "ALL ADULT" women. I am 5'8" and feel very insulted every time someone (especially a man) using the word "CUTE" when addressing anything about me. Keep up the excellent writing and I look forward to reading some more.

    1. Thank you Susan, very well said! In my research of this article, I found that many and men, short, tall, fat, thin, feel the same way. I think the word "Cute" can feel condescending at times, especially being said to a grown woman. I don't have a problem with the word "cute" being said about a house, or perhaps an outfit or dog…cat…baby…well, you get the idea! LOL! Thank you for the compliment and I hope you will continue to read bellapetite!!

  4. I have been opposed to hearing the word cute, since I was old enough to know it sounded insulting. Women know we use the word because we don't want to say words like ugly, horrible…Like when a guy friend shows you someone he's interested in dating and she not so attractive, you don't want to insult him so you say "she's cute." Knowing a puppy is cute and she's just plain out ugly! For lack of a better adjective when I find someone not attractive it's my fall back word.

    1. OMG Rosie — that's SO true. And, as I've said — you know we've ALL "been there!" lol. It is, I guess a good fall back word, but since we know we've used it in that context towards others, it makes me stop and think about the times the word has been used towards me, so now I think, hmmm — "did he just call me ugly?" LOL! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Being that I'm 5'3" definitely petite, I hate it when someone says to me you look soo "cute". I immediately feel like a child. It seems to be a word used by most tall women when they look at me. They think it's endearing, we think it's demeaning. Thank you Bella Petite for being the one and only publication in the world that understands petite women's issues. You make me proud to be petite! Ann Lauren I admire you for creating opportunities for petite when obviously you are so beautiful you could have focused on being a model and actress and never bothered to do this for all of us. Thank you! I am a member and here to help! What can I do to further this cause?

  6. Jenny — "Heightism" is a huge problem in the fashion and modeling industry. They really should take into account that over 70% of women in the world are considered "petite." Like, HELLO?? You would think they would want to capitalize on that market…?? Remember, "Small IS beautiful!" Thanks for your comment, and your support of Bella Petite!

  7. I Really enjoyed this one. At last something that stands up for "petite" women. We are not cute, we are unique and wonderful.

    1. That's right Nancy! We ARE "unique," intellectual and special women — we must be since we make up over 70% of the population! Your voice…your post adds steps closer to the noise we need to make to change industry standards! Thank you for commenting!

  8. I'm a petite woman and never thought of the word "cute" as a negative connotation. Now I do. When my friends call me cute, I will now be able to question them whether or not they are only trying to distract me from getting it right, lol. What a fun article.

  9. Funny – I heard about valley girls and how they would always say the word cute. I wouldn't use the word cute to describe weird either, but I do like the word "trippy." Apparently, you and my mom share the same description of weird. Although she is not petite, she loved this post and agrred the word is used as a disguise. Thanks for a great post and for giving us something else to talk about this website is the best information!

  10. Aaw I don't mind being called Cute. I never saw it as negative at all but I am guilty of saying things like "I can put you in my pocket" to smaller friends. Oh wow I wonder if they were offended-oops

    1. Yeah, for me it’s not the word itself that I find offensive, it’s how some people say it. Some people say “cute” like a genuine compliment, and others say it rather patronizingly, like I’m 5 instead 23.

  11. What a "cute" story (am I allowed to say cute for a story, lol). Actually, I feel the same way about this word. This article has definitely made me rethink anytime I use the word. But, I will forever call my dog "cute." Thanks Tana for informing us of some we take for granted.

  12. Well, it’s easy for men to take advantage of petite girls vs tall girls, which is why petite girls are considered cute and feminine.

  13. I disagree with this article… I'm petite and I like being called cute. Actually being called sexy sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable if it doesn't come from the right person. I also like pretty, beautiful and gorgeous haha but I really think cute matches my personality 80% of the time..

    1. Well, see — having a "cute" personality vs. someone just calling you "cute" because of your stature is a way different thing. I like being called "cute" when I'm doing something or acting "cute." But, if someone just saw me shopping or something and offered up a compliment by saying, "Oh you're very cute," THUMBS DOWN! Plus, it depends how old you are — I'm almost 45…no way am I CUTE anymore, LOL!! Hot, sexy, pretty and beautiful….OH, and Cougar — I'll go for any of those <wink>! Thanks for commenting on Bella Petite!

      By the way, there's a heated discussion going on about Lady Gaga being a "devil worshiper" if you want to check it out! It's pretty funny if you ask me — oh, and yes…I'm at the center of it all, but I'm sticking up for Lady!! I would really like to know other's opinion – the article wasn't even about that, so if you're interested, commented on both the article and what the others are saying! Thanks again for posting! Take care!

  14. I dont like to get compliment ” cute” becoz im 5.O and i know im hot sexy lol they can call u cute only if they are ur close friends or boyfriend but not all the time!

  15. Guilty as charged! I have committed the "cute" sin! We non-petites tend to identify anything smaller as cute. I will be guilty of this no more!!

    1. Hi Gael — Yeah, who would have ever thought it? I've been guilty myself! It's funny because I just caught myself saying it to my daughter last night (who is only 5'3), and I quickly changed it to beautiful (because she is, lol)! It's funny because now that I've done this article, I am way more aware of how often it is used! Thanks for the comment.

  16. It just seems like the fashion industry is too prudish. The world is evolving and so the model standards need to also. It is but just too slooowwwly. I always was confused at how the jeans are always so long yet the women who buy them always have them draping at the ankles. Not fair!
    Just for any of the petite women looking for modeling opportunities..don’t lose hope because it will change in the future and there are still modeling opportunities for us everywhere. Just stick with it and bless the naysayers because they are imperative in our growth. No pun intended.

  17. At 5’0″, I’ve had to endure that “c” adjective my whole life. Everyone always said “some day you’ll be grateful you’re so small and look so young” and they were right to a degree, but now that I’m approaching 40, I could really do without hearing that word. And people still say it to me all the time. It is not a complement! Thank you for sharing this article!!

  18. Hi Bella Petite I never realized that cute was so bad but the etymology is clear don’t want to be called cute again!

  19. Smaller things are inherently more cute. If you’re short, you ARE cute. There’s no getting around it honestly. It’s how the word is used.

    I don’t care how old a dog might be, but if it’s tiny and not ugly “cute” is a very appropriate word to describe it….just as it is with a person (male or female).

  20. I have a feeling that Bella Petite Magazine was written just to make the shorties (or little people) feel better about themselves…

    I’m 6’0″ and I’ve got a very good figure if I do say so myself. Being petite DOES NOT, in fact, make you sexy or pretty in any way. It makes you nothing more than “cute”, but that’s it. Most women stop being “cute” around age 15 when they grow up, so short women are short on beauty and brains and you know it that’s why you have no place in beauty and fashion.

    I’m proud of my amazon height and long legs. I know it makes you other girls jealous, but I really don’t care anymore. I wear high heels quite frequently and it doesn’t bother me at all what short girls think of me. The idea men prefer petites is a joke! If a man dates or marries a woman who is shorter than him than he must lack confidence and intelligence and is likely not good looking himself. Nice try Bella Petite you just fall on the short side of cute, haha!

    1. Tamy,

      It’s been a few years since I’ve written this article, so I read it again…carefully – and I do not believe I said being “petite” makes one sexy or pretty (but, now that you’ve mention it, we ARE pretty and sexy because we understand that that comes from the inside, and we know how to portray it to the outside, thank you). Perhaps being so tall, clouds your mind a bit, hmm? I’m just asking.

      This article is about “women”, not children. To quote you:

      “Most women stop being cute around age 15 when they grow up, so short women are short on beauty and brains and you know it that’s why you have no place in beauty and fashion.”

      Hmm, HUH!? *going over in my mind – “most women stop being cute around age 15″…* I guess because I’m petite I can’t fully comprehend your sentence, or sentence structure…..NOT! OMG, I’m laughing so hard. Okay, I’m composed now. I guess since you’re TALL and so smart, and I’m petite and so dumb, you probably purposely wrote the above run on sentence, lacking commas and/or any creativity, and definitely didn’t research the truth, on purpose, right? Pfftt, right!

      First of all, miss “Could you grab that for me” (I’m sure you hear that a lot) 15 year olds are not “women” and not all teenagers are only “cute”. My daughter (5’3), who is 22 now, has always been “petite”, and has always been told she’s “beautiful” – she is definitely NOT “cute”, there is a huge difference when someone is “cute” vs someone who is a classic beauty; in fact, just last night, a woman came up to her and said, “I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you are one of the most beautiful WOMEN I’ve ever seen, you look like a porcelain doll.” She actually gets that everywhere she goes — not, “Wow, you have long feet!”

      You just commented that being “petite” makes us “nothing more than cute”

      The ignorance of your fallacious statement that petite women are short on beauty and brains, and “that’s why” (the giraffe says) we have no place in beauty and fashion, tells me pretty much what kind of TALL woman (suffering from high altitude sickness) I’m dealing with. I feel so bad for you, it must suck.

      But the truth of the matter is…and oh, no need to thank me, I love edifying the minority of women in this world (did you know that petite woman make up over 70% of the world’s population of women! True story. I know, it must sting)…the “fashion” industry USES tall “skinny” women to fabricate to the masses (which is us, the petites) that “YOU TOO” can look like these tall, sickly, long feet, stick-figure woman if you buy our clothes. Uh, really!? Tell me “Tamy”, does it make any kind of sense to you that a designer would not use petite (as well as tall, plus-size, etc.) models to represent their clothing line since WE, PETITE WOMAN, make up the majority of woman in the WORLD!? You’re the one who brought up “brains” – please show me you have some.

      I’m very glad you’re proud of your extreme height and long legs (by the way, petite woman can have long legs too, it’s all about proportion and dressing appropriately – AND, we ALWAYS get to wear heels!). But when you say it doesn’t bother you at all what petite girls say about you, you’re lying, and you know it…otherwise, why would you be on THIS website, commenting about how we’re short on beauty and brains? Hey, I get the jealousy, I really get it – Petites, like Ava Longoria, Salma Hayek, Natalie Portman, Alex Toro (my daughter) are absolutely so beautiful, intelligent, sexy, and their husbands/boyfriends don’t feel like they’re with another dude.

      Men DO prefer “petites”, it is a scientific and fact – I’m assuming you have google 😉 Use it. Also, while you’re at it, read my article, for edification purposes, of course, “Petite Women vs Amazon Women – Facts & Petite Figures”, as well as my article “Men Prefer Petites”. I think you’ll learn what I’m talking about.

      By the way, have you played basketball? I’m sure you get that a lot, too. Funny, I’ve always been asked if I’ve ever modeled, pfft…go figure!

      Have a nice day 🙂

    2. Hi Tamy 🙂 how are you? I’d just like to point out your reasoning is quite flawed. Lack of intelligence? see if you can match me. I have a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, First Class Honors in Biology, A Graduate Diploma in Psychology. I was chosen to be in the Golden Key International Honor Society, I have my Certificate in Performing Arts (singing, dancing, acting). I have been on TV and on billboards and on backs of buses. I have done paid modeling. I have been a dance teacher and worked in science, in child care etc. I’m only 28 years old. I have had so many tall guys fall in love with me that I’ve lost track. And many other things I could go on about. Now would you like to repeat the “short on brains” part again? ;-)… just so you know there is no correlation between height and brains. Maybe you should take a statistics course if you don’t understand that? By the way, I should tell you that I’m only FIVE FOOT TALL! I have many friends who are high achievers and absolutely gorgeous (short and tall) and they have NEVER had issues with guys of ANY HEIGHT liking them. So perhaps before you make a statement you should look into some peer reviewed journal articles that have statistics on the claims you make. If you can’t back it up DON’T SAY IT. You make a fool out of yourself. Secondly darling, people who are GENUINELY happy don’t put others down. Maybe you should talk to someone professional about your issues. Finally as I was gracious enough to dignify your comment with a reply, I’d like to wish you all the best in your future and hope you find the happiness you are obviously searching for! Good luck lady 🙂

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