Definition of ugly in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈʌɡli/

adjective (uglier, ugliest)

1Unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance: she thought she was ugly and fat the ugly sound of a fire alarm
More example sentences
  • Sam, what on earth possessed you to spend all that time making a terrine that has the appearance of an ugly, withered, old leather boot?
  • They were fat, ugly men with wicked faces, like the one in the picture on the opposite page.
  • The sad, the ignored, the ugly and the repulsive wander in between the hours of 12 and 5.
unattractive, ill-favoured, hideous, plain, plain-featured, plain-looking, unlovely, unprepossessing, unsightly, displeasing, disagreeable;
horrible, frightful, awful, ghastly, gruesome, grisly, unpleasant, foul, nasty, grim, vile, shocking, disgusting, revolting, repellent, repugnant, grotesque, monstrous, reptilian, misshapen, deformed, disfigured;
North American  homely
informal not much to look at, short on looks, as plain as a pikestaff, as ugly as sin, fugly
British informal no oil painting
New Zealand informal huckery
2Involving or likely to involve violence or other unpleasantness: the mood in the room turned ugly
More example sentences
  • Beyond that, there were no reports of violence and other ugly scenes that have characterised past elections.
  • I just don't see how creating an ugly, violent scene could possibly make those bereaved parents feel better.
  • It's hard not to warm to these men, who are nothing like the ugly, violent stereotypes we expect them to be.
unpleasant, nasty, alarming, disagreeable, tense, charged, serious, grave, dangerous, perilous, threatening, menacing, hostile, ominous, sinister
archaic direful
rare minacious
2.1Unpleasantly suggestive; causing disquiet: ugly rumours persisted that there had been a cover-up
More example sentences
  • She thought of the ugly rumors that were going around about her and it released her anger a little.
  • She looked at the boys as their mouths formed the sounds of ugly words, pouring down at her like hot molasses.
2.2Morally repugnant: racism and its most ugly manifestations, racial attacks and harassment
More example sentences
  • These days most of us don't want to get too involved in national politics because it seems to partisan and ugly.
  • By doing this, it suggests continuity with the old regime, rather than complicity in an ugly coup of a popular mayor.
  • In his prime, his vindictiveness was ugly and frightening; now it's ugly and a little pathetic.



Example sentences
  • The 68-year-old, who smokes 30 cigarettes a day, also declared the black and white EU-imposed public health warnings on cigarette packets ‘the uglification of Europe’.
  • She has been criticized for being too beautiful for the part, and much has been made about her onscreen uglification, complete with her adoption of Kahlo's signature seagull-wing eyebrows.
  • Shaggy's statement that Lismore City Council's uglification of the riverbank has nothing to do with the flood levee is false.


Pronunciation: /ˈʌɡlɪfʌɪ/
verb (uglifies, uglifying, uglified)
Example sentences
  • The gates of deserted factories, empty buildings, shabby houses, destroyed statues… Zhou could once have been accused of ‘viciously picturing the dark side and uglifying the city’ in a less tolerant social environment.
  • I decided that enough was finally enough, and sorted out the multiple electrical devices that had been uglifying my desk all these months.
  • I prefer not to uglify the scheme by adding significant figures, so for the purposes of this discussion, I will regard us as still being a Type 0.7.


Example sentences
  • And as far as sex goes, our white civilisation is crude, barbaric, and uglily savage.
  • I wondered as I saw some men in uniform gathered by the rear gate of the prison which squats uglily next to my flat.
  • Firefox and other browsers just let the rubric extend uglily beyond the edge of the content container.


Middle English: from Old Norse uggligr 'to be dreaded', from ugga 'to dread'.

  • The word ugly came into English in the 13th century from Old Norse uggligr ‘to be dreaded’, and had a stronger meaning than it does now, ‘frightful or horrible’. In Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale the ‘ugly duckling’ is a cygnet hatched by a duck that is jeered at until it turns into a graceful swan. The tale appeared in English in a translation of 1846, and ugly duckling was soon in use for people. The American entertainer Danny Kaye brought the idea to a wider audience when he wrote and sang ‘The Ugly Duckling’ in a 1952 biographical film of Andersen's life. In Cinderella, the heroine has two ugly and unpleasant stepsisters who make her work in the kitchen. Since the late 19th century an ugly sister has been an unattractive person or thing or an undesirable counterpart. More recent is the ugly American, the American who behaves offensively abroad. The original context of the phrase is that of Americans who adversely affect the lives of the people they live among in southeast Asia. It comes from the title of a 1958 book by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick, which was released as a film starring Marlon Brando in 1963.

Words that rhyme with ugly


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ugly

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