[ pleyn ]
See synonyms for: plainplainsplainlyplainness on

adjective,plain·er, plain·est.
  1. clear or distinct to the eye or ear: a plain trail to the river;to stand in plain view.

  2. clear to the mind; evident, manifest, or obvious: to make one's meaning plain.

  1. conveying the meaning clearly and simply; easily understood: plain talk.

  2. downright; sheer; utter; self-evident: plain folly;plain stupidity.

  3. free from ambiguity or evasion; candid; outspoken: the plain truth of the matter.

  4. without special pretensions, superiority, elegance, etc.; ordinary: plain people.

  5. not beautiful; physically unattractive or undistinguished: a plain face.

  6. without intricacies or difficulties.

  7. ordinary, simple, or unostentatious: Although she was a duchess, her manners were attractively plain.

  8. with little or no embellishment, decoration, or enhancing elaboration: a plain blue suit.

  9. without a pattern, figure, or device: a plain fabric.

  10. not rich, highly seasoned, or elaborately prepared, as food: a plain diet.

  11. flat or level: plain country.

  12. unobstructed, clear, or open, as ground, a space, etc.

  13. Cards. being other than a face card or a trump.

  1. clearly and simply: He's just plain stupid.

  1. an area of land not significantly higher than adjacent areas and with relatively minor differences in elevation, commonly less than 500 feet (150 meters), within the area.

  2. The Plains. Great Plains.

Idioms about plain

  1. in plain sight. See entry at in plain sight.

Origin of plain

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English adjective, adverb, and noun plain(e), plein(e), from Old French adjective and noun plain(e), pleine, from Latin plānus “flat, level,” plānum “flat country”

synonym study For plain

10. See homely.

Other words for plain

Opposites for plain

Other words from plain

  • plain·ly, adverb
  • plain·ness, noun

Words that may be confused with plain

Other definitions for plain (2 of 2)

[ pleyn ]

verb (used without object)British Dialect.
  1. to complain.

Origin of plain

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English plei(g)nen, plene(n), from Anglo-French plainer, pleiner, Old French plaign-, stem of plaindre, pleindre, from Latin plangere “to strike, beat (the breast, etc.), lament” Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use plain in a sentence

  • Now and then Fortunio had to intervene, to make plainer to this ignorant Piedmontese mind the Marquise's questions.

    St. Martin's Summer | Rafael Sabatini
  • The violin and bow still in the hands of the dead man told him plainer than words what had happened.

    The Fifth String   | John Philip Sousa
  • I do find myself much bound to go handsome, which I shall do in linen, and so the other things may be all the plainer.

British Dictionary definitions for plain (1 of 2)


/ (pleɪn) /

  1. flat or smooth; level

  2. not complicated; clear: the plain truth

  1. not difficult; simple or easy: a plain task

  2. honest or straightforward

  3. lowly, esp in social rank or education

  4. without adornment or show: a plain coat

  5. (of fabric) without pattern or of simple untwilled weave

  6. not attractive

  7. not mixed; simple: plain vodka

  8. knitting of or done in plain

  1. a level or almost level tract of country, esp an extensive treeless region

  2. a simple stitch in knitting made by putting the right needle into a loop on the left needle, passing the wool round the right needle, and pulling it through the loop, thus forming a new loop

  1. (in billiards)

    • the unmarked white ball, as distinguished from the spot balls

    • the player using this ball

  2. (in Ireland) short for plain porter, a light porter: two pints of plain, please

  1. (intensifier): just plain tired

Origin of plain

C13: from Old French: simple, from Latin plānus level, distinct, clear

Derived forms of plain

  • plainly, adverb
  • plainness, noun

British Dictionary definitions for plain (2 of 2)


/ (pleɪn) /

  1. a dialect or poetic word for complain

Origin of plain

C14 pleignen, from Old French plaindre to lament, from Latin plangere to beat

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

Scientific definitions for plain


[ plān ]

  1. An extensive, relatively level area of land. Plains are present on all continents except Antarctica and are most often located in the interior regions. Because they can occur at almost any altitude or latitude, plains can be humid and forested, semiarid and grass-covered, or arid.

  2. A broad, level expanse, such as an area of the sea floor or a lunar mare.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with plain


In addition to the idioms beginning with plain

  • plain as day
  • plain sailing

also see:

  • in plain English

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.