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[hohm-lee] /ˈhoʊm li/
adjective, homelier, homeliest.
lacking in physical attractiveness; not beautiful; unattractive:
a homely child.
not having elegance, refinement, or cultivation.
proper or suited to the home or to ordinary domestic life; plain; unpretentious:
homely food.
commonly seen or known.
Origin of homely
First recorded in 1300-50, homely is from the Middle English word homly. See home, -ly
Related forms
homeliness, noun
overhomeliness, noun
overhomely, adjective
unhomeliness, noun
unhomely, adjective
Can be confused
homely, homey.
homely, homily.
Synonym Study
1–3. Simple, homely (homey), homelike, plain imply absence of adornment or embellishment. Something that is simple is not elaborate or complex: a simple kind of dress. In the United States, homely usually suggests absence of natural beauty: an unattractive person almost homely enough to be called ugly. In England, the word suggests a wholesome simplicity without artificial refinement or elegance; since it characterizes that which is comfortable and attractive, it is equivalent to homey: a homely cottage. Homelike also emphasizes comfort and attractiveness, but it conveys less strongly than does homey a sense of intimate security: a homelike interior, arrangement, atmosphere. Something that is plain has little or no adornment: expensive but plain clothing. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for homeliness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Even at that the English talk made my heart expand—the homeliness of it.

    Romance Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer
  • The force of his argument is not at all injured by the homeliness of his illustrations.

    Pages From an Old Volume of Life Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  • In her homeliness she presented a strange contrast to her surroundings.

    A Pirate of Parts Richard Neville
  • It is the homeliness of a people without a home, without a country.

    Nights in London

    Thomas Burke
  • A certain simplicity, not to say homeliness, of manners prevailed in the house.

    Not Like Other Girls Rosa N. Carey
  • There should be an air of homeliness and open hospitality about the place.

    The Complete Bachelor Walter Germain
  • Grant, however, was instantly so moved that he did not notice her homeliness.

  • Her homeliness of appearance amounted to the ugliness that is bitter.

    Voltaire John Morley
  • This homeliness, among many other causes, arises out of one in chief.

British Dictionary definitions for homeliness


adjective -lier, -liest
characteristic of or suited to the ordinary home; unpretentious
(of a person)
  1. (Brit) warm and domesticated in manner or appearance
  2. (mainly US & Canadian) plain or ugly
Derived Forms
homeliness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for homeliness

mid-14c., from homely + -ness. Originally "meekness, gentleness," also "familiarity, intimacy; friendliness;" sense degenerated by c.1400 to "want of refinement in manners, coarseness; presumptuousness."



late 14c., "of or belonging to home or household, domestic," from Middle English hom "home" (see home (n.)) + -ly (2). Sense of "plain, unadorned, simple" is late 14c., and extension to "having a plain appearance, ugly, crude" took place c.1400, but now survives chiefly in U.S., especially in New England, where it was the usual term for "physically unattractive;" ugly being typically "ill-tempered."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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