Pulchritude, the noun, was first recorded in the 1400’s and it stems from the Latin word pulchritude or pulcher simply meaning ‘beautiful’. The adjective, pulchritudinous, was first recorded in 1912 and is solely American English.
Why this word?
Now this one is a truly great one. Did you ever think of why words change? Consider the word ‘so’, when something is ‘so’ something. In the last couple of decades, English speakers prolonged the vowel and now it sounds more and more like ‘soooo’; I’m sure you know what I mean! These changes occur when a word doesn’t seem to work anymore, when its meaning and use get too habitual to stand for itself. Then we, the speakers, make these alternations to create a change in meaning, to intensify it.
Now consider ‘beautiful’, how many times have you heard this word pronounced with the prolonging of the first vowel into ‘byoootiful’, on many occasions the speaker will also roll his or her eyes to intensify the meaning even more. All this happens merely as the word ‘beautiful’ is coming to be more and more habitual.
We have stunning, amazing, gorgeous and many other synonyms, but I would strongly like to offer this one! Sound-wise, it sounds the exact opposite from what it means, which may help this great noun to remain non-habitual.
Then again, it could also be the reason for it being highly unknown… You decide!
How to use pulchritude?
I the exact same way you use the word beautiful!