adjective, home·li·er, home·li·est.

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 formshome·li·ness, nouno·ver·home·li·ness, nouno·ver·home·ly, adjectiveun·home·li·ness, nounun·home·ly, adjective
Can be confusedhomely homeyhomely 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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for homeliness

Contemporary Examples of homeliness

Historical Examples of homeliness

  • Even at that the English talk made my heart expand—the homeliness of it.


    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.

British Dictionary definitions for homeliness


adjective -lier or -liest

characteristic of or suited to the ordinary home; unpretentious
(of a person)
  1. Britishwarm and domesticated in manner or appearance
  2. mainly US and Canadianplain or ugly
Derived Formshomeliness, 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

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