There are 2 main definitions of plain in English:

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plain1

Line breaks: plain
Pronunciation: /pleɪn
 
/

adjective

1Not decorated or elaborate; simple or basic 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.
Synonyms
simple, ordinary, unadorned, undecorated, unembellished, unornamented, unpretentious, unostentatious, unfussy, homely, homespun, basic, modest, unsophisticated, penny plain, without frills;
stark, severe, spartan, austere, chaste, bare, uncluttered, restrained, muted, unpatterned, patternless, everyday, workaday
1.1Without a pattern; in only one colour: 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 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 paper) without lines.
Example sentences
  • As for the writing paper (which should never be called note paper), this must be plain, not lined, and white or ivory.
  • Cover the work surface with plain newsprint or a drop cloth.
  • Individually, an ant would get lost on a plain piece of paper.
2Easy to perceive or understand; clear: the advantages were plain to see it was plain that something was 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.
Synonyms
2.1 [attributive] (Of written or spoken usage) clearly expressed, without the use of technical or abstruse terms: an insurance policy 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.
Synonyms
intelligible, comprehensible, understandable, coherent, accessible, uncomplicated, lucid, perspicuous, unambiguous, clear, simple, straightforward, clearly expressed, clear-cut, direct, digestible, user-friendly
2.2Not using concealment or deception; frank: there were indrawn breaths at such 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.
Synonyms
3Not distinguished by any particular beauty; ordinary looking: a plain, round-faced 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.
Synonyms
3.1Having 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.
Synonyms
straightforward, unpretentious, simple, ordinary, average, unassuming, unaffected, honest-to-goodness, ingenuous, artless, guileless, sincere;
North American cracker-barrel
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.
Synonyms
5(Of a knitting stitch) made by putting the needle through the front of the stitch from left to right. Compare with purl1.
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.

adverb

informal Back to top  
1 [as submodifier] 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.
Synonyms
2Clearly or unequivocally: I’m finished with you, I’ll tell you plain
More example sentences
  • I'll tell you plain that I'm pretty rough myself, but you're mighty shady company even for Billy.
  • He was speaking plain enough to be very intelligible to Emma.
  • We warned him plain.

noun

Back to top  
A large area of flat land with few trees: the coastal plain
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.
Synonyms
grassland, flatland, lowland, pasture, meadowland, open country, prairie, savannah, steppe;
in S. Americatableland, tundra, pampas, campo, llano, vega;
in southern Africaveld;
Geology pediplain
literary champaign

Origin

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

More
  • The source of both plain and plane is Latin planus ‘flat’. Mathematicians introduced the spelling plane in the early 17th century to distinguish the geometrical uses of plain from senses such as ‘ordinary’ and ‘simple’. The sort of plane used to make wood flat is from the same source. Plane meaning ‘an aircraft’ is unconnected, and is a shortening of aeroplane. Also unconnected is the plane tree (Late Middle English), which is not flat but ‘broad’, the meaning of its Greek source platus. The plan of a building (mid 17th century), which involves putting something three-dimensional on a flat surface, is, however, related. The earlier version of the expression as plain as a pikestaff, ‘very obvious’, was as plain as a packstaff, which gives a small clue as to its origins. A packstaff was a long stick which a peddler used to carry his pack of goods for sale, which would probably have been obvious from a distance as the peddler trudged along the road. By the end of the 16th century people had started to use the current version with pikestaff, and a hundred years later it had more or less taken over. A pikestaff was a walking stick with a pointed metal tip, which possibly replaced packstaff because it sounded similar and peddlers were becoming a less familiar sight. The phrase plain sailing, ‘smooth and easy progress’, probably represents a use of plane sailing, referring to the practice of determining a ship's position on the theoretical assumption that it is moving on a plane. Plain Jane first appears in 1912, in Carnival by Compton Mackenzie. There was probably no real Jane behind the phrase, just a fortunate rhyme.

Phrases

as plain as the nose on someone's face

1
informal Very obvious: I knew what he was up to—it was as plain as the nose on his face
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

2
informal Used to emphasize the statement preceding or following: she was a nuisance, 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

3
informal Very clearly.
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.

Derivatives

plainly

1
adverb
[as sentence adverb]: her mother was plainly anxious to leave
More example sentences
  • Mother's father, plainly a man of some seniority and influence, was a respected surgeon at the same hospital as father.
  • Though he plainly loved his mother, he later said that he never cried at her death.
  • The exceptional categories plainly apply to offences more serious than common assault, but no court has ever decided how far they go.

plainness

2
Pronunciation: /ˈpleɪnnɪs/
noun
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:

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plain2

Line breaks: plain
Pronunciation: /pleɪn
 
/

verb

[no object] archaic
1Mourn or lament.
Example sentences
  • 'Oh, Rover, don't you leave me, too,' she plained out.
1.1Complain.
Example sentences
  • When she was entertained she plained about her new-found fame.
1.2Emit a mournful or plaintive sound.
Example sentences
  • She plained of love; she longed for wings.

Origin

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

More
  • The source of both plain and plane is Latin planus ‘flat’. Mathematicians introduced the spelling plane in the early 17th century to distinguish the geometrical uses of plain from senses such as ‘ordinary’ and ‘simple’. The sort of plane used to make wood flat is from the same source. Plane meaning ‘an aircraft’ is unconnected, and is a shortening of aeroplane. Also unconnected is the plane tree (Late Middle English), which is not flat but ‘broad’, the meaning of its Greek source platus. The plan of a building (mid 17th century), which involves putting something three-dimensional on a flat surface, is, however, related. The earlier version of the expression as plain as a pikestaff, ‘very obvious’, was as plain as a packstaff, which gives a small clue as to its origins. A packstaff was a long stick which a peddler used to carry his pack of goods for sale, which would probably have been obvious from a distance as the peddler trudged along the road. By the end of the 16th century people had started to use the current version with pikestaff, and a hundred years later it had more or less taken over. A pikestaff was a walking stick with a pointed metal tip, which possibly replaced packstaff because it sounded similar and peddlers were becoming a less familiar sight. The phrase plain sailing, ‘smooth and easy progress’, probably represents a use of plane sailing, referring to the practice of determining a ship's position on the theoretical assumption that it is moving on a plane. Plain Jane first appears in 1912, in Carnival by Compton Mackenzie. There was probably no real Jane behind the phrase, just a fortunate rhyme.

Definition of plain in:

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