There are 2 main definitions of plain in English:


Syllabification: plain
Pronunciation: /plān


1Not decorated or elaborate; simple or ordinary in character: good plain food everyone dined at a plain wooden table
More example sentences
  • She was surrounded by a simple, plain room with a wooden wardrobe and desk.
  • Their rich, sumptuous food contrasted with the simple and plain food prepared by the ordinary people of Nepal.
  • I wanted to photograph the United States in its most basic, plain, everyday sense.
simple, ordinary, unadorned, unembellished, unornamented, unostentatious, unfussy, basic, modest, unsophisticated, without frills, homespun;
restrained, unshowy, unflashy, muted;
everyday, workaday
1.1Without a pattern; in only one color: a plain fabric
More example sentences
  • For so long, it's been black or linen in plain colours, and suddenly there's been an explosion of colour which is really inspiring people.
  • If you want to distract attention from your top half, go for a plain colour and style on top and a sexier bottom with side ties or lots of flamboyant detail.
  • Ascot rules dictate that they should be of a plain colour, and innocent of sponsors' logos.
1.2Bearing no indication as to source, contents, or affiliation: donations can be put in a plain envelope
More example sentences
  • The envelope was a plain white one with no indication who it was from.
  • The letters arrived in plain envelopes with a Kelowna return address.
  • These envelopes, always plain white and small, are never opened until the two parties are far apart.
1.3(Of a person) having no pretensions; not remarkable or special: a plain, honest man with no nonsense about him
More example sentences
  • On the outside he was a plain guy, quite normal and polite, but once you got to know him, opinions started to take a turn for the worse.
  • Meanwhile, plain folks toss around the word with abandon.
  • And so the politicians, the soldiers, the businessmen, and the plain folk decided it was best to give up their guns.
1.4 [attributive] (Of a person) without a special title or status: for years he was just plain Bill
More example sentences
  • She was just plain Suzy, driving her sleeping family home after a day out at the coast.
  • For the most part, she just called him plain Jack.
  • They would wait until 1804 before electing plain Samuel as trustee.
2Easy to perceive or understand; clear: the advantages were plain to see it was plain that something was very wrong
More example sentences
  • Like many of us, it is also plain that he cannot understand why.
  • To an outsider, it's one of the hardest things to understand about the company, but the benefits are plain to see on stage.
  • On the day both teams showed great determination, and it was plain to see that winning would be no easy task.
2.1 [attributive] (Of written or spoken usage) clearly expressed, without the use of technical or abstruse terms: written in plain English
More example sentences
  • On the other hand, he is fond of the kind of design analysis that leaves the uninitiated wishing he would speak in plain English, in terms the layman can understand.
  • I think the candidates need to be very specific and speak in plain English.
  • And when we do talk about it, we should do so clearly, in plain English - not in jumbled phrases of design jargon.
intelligible, comprehensible, clear, understandable, coherent, uncomplicated, lucid, unambiguous, simple, straightforward, user-friendly
formal perspicuous
2.2Not using concealment or deception; frank: he recalled her plain speaking
More example sentences
  • He is from an era when blunt and plain speaking was applauded.
  • Is this issue beneath this great Prime Minister, who is blunt, and plain speaking, and goes on the front foot?
  • Honesty and plain speaking are not virtues for politicians and diplomats.
3(Of a person) not beautiful or attractive: the dark-haired, rather plain woman
More example sentences
  • Perfect posture can make a plain person stunningly attractive.
  • I always used to look at myself as sort of a plain person.
  • It was nice to see such an attractive Ruth as often she is rather plain compared to Elvira.
informal not much to look at
4 [attributive] Sheer; simple (used for emphasis): the main problem is just plain exhaustion
More example sentences
  • Many died from malnutrition, fighting, or just plain exhaustion before even getting to the construction sites.
  • Minimizing the number of systems that engineers deal with is also key, so that making GM products is cheaper and just plain simpler.
  • Plus, it's just plain exhausting trying to say productive, generous, and constructive things all the time.
sheer, pure, downright, out-and-out, unmitigated
5(Of a knitting stitch) made using a knit rather than a purl stitch.
More example sentences
  • She offered a more varied needlework curriculum of plain work, marking, openwork, and embroidery along with reading and writing.
  • When working the 101st row, knit the margin, also 9 stripes of the pattern, then knit 30 plain stitches, and resume the pattern to the end.


[as submodifier] informal Back to top  
Clearly; unequivocally (used for emphasis): perhaps the youth was just plain stupid
More example sentences
  • Your statement on Nicaragua shows how utterly naive and just plain stupid you are.
  • The trouble with most of the right wing positions are that they are just plain old fashioned stupid.
  • They should have been happy at the prospect of fresh air, swathes of green and house prices which are stupid rather than plain insane.


Back to top  
1A large area of flat land with few trees. Compare with prairie.
More example sentences
  • The land terrain in Cambodia is mostly made up of low lands, flat plains, with mountains in the Southwest and north.
  • The landscape includes flat desert plains, rugged savanna, and volcanic mountains.
  • The area covers 1,200 hectares of land and consists of flat plains, foothills and a white sandy beach, sloping down towards a crystal blue sea.
grassland, prairie, flatland, lowland, pasture, meadowland, savanna, steppe;
1.1 (the Plains) another term for Great Plains.


Middle English: from Old French plain, from Latin planus, from a base meaning 'flat'.


as plain as the nose on one's face

informal Very obvious.
More example sentences
  • He explained why he chose him: ‘That was a decision I felt had to be made as plain as the nose on my face - and that's fairly apparent.’
  • What's the point of saying something that is as plain as the nose on your face?
  • After eliminating the impossibilities, the master of deduction explained, he had been left with one simple irrevocable conclusion, as plain as the nose on one's face.

plain and simple

informal Used to emphasize the statement preceding or following: she was a genius, plain and simple
More example sentences
  • He is a songwriter - and his approach to his craft is as plain and simple as that statement.
  • A ‘real’ hunter does not kill to watch things suffer - he kills for food, plain and simple.
  • Without them this show wouldn't have happened, plain and simple.

plain as day

informal Very clearly.
More example sentences
  • Your contempt for anyone who disagrees with you is plain as day.
  • Yet many contemporaries worried that lawyers were merely complicating matters that ought to be as plain as day.
  • This is pure, one-man-band, Presidential propaganda, and we can all see it, as plain as day.



More example sentences
  • In the weaker poems, the effect is wishful and mechanical, but there are many moments of startling illumination, and these are made more powerful by the seeming plainness and directness of his manner.
  • And yet that tradition's peculiar virtues - understatement, plainness, a willingness to explain one's ideas - create the effects here which will surprise Americans most.
  • As in some of the palazzi of the High Renaissance, the plainness and heaviness of the ground floor, whose arches were open to the elements until 1862, makes a marked and deliberate contrast to the sculptural richness above.

Definition of plain in:

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There are 2 main definitions of plain in English:


Syllabification: plain
Pronunciation: /plān


[no object] archaic
1Mourn; lament.
More example sentences
  • 'Oh, Rover, don't you leave me, too,' she plained out.
More example sentences
  • When she was entertained she plained about her new-found fame.
1.2Emit a mournful or plaintive sound.
More example sentences
  • She plained of love; she longed for wings.


Middle English: from Old French plaindre, from Latin plangere 'to lament'.

Definition of plain in: