See more synonyms for homely on Thesaurus.com
adjective, home·li·er, home·li·est.
  1. lacking in physical attractiveness; not beautiful; unattractive: a homely child.
  2. not having elegance, refinement, or cultivation.
  3. proper or suited to the home or to ordinary domestic life; plain; unpretentious: homely food.
  4. 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. 2018

Examples from the Web for homely

Contemporary Examples of homely

Historical Examples of homely

  • Great was the interchange of news over the homely hearty meal.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • I think it was the homely smell of hot buttered toast that did it.


    William J. Locke

  • It is kindly and homely to me to hear her voice and to feel that she is behind me.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Such reckoning, of course, only holds good of thrifty, homely France.

    The Roof of France

    Matilda Betham-Edwards

  • And Barbara felt very grateful for all these homely kindnesses.

British Dictionary definitions for homely


adjective -lier or -liest
  1. characteristic of or suited to the ordinary home; unpretentious
  2. (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 homely

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