sitting pretty, Informal.
    1. in an advantageous position.
    2. well-to-do; successful.

Origin of pretty

before 1000; Middle English prati(e), pratte, prettie cunning, gallant, fine, handsome, pretty; Old English prættig, prettī cunning, derivative of prǣtt a trick, wile (cognate with Dutch part, pret trick, prank, Old Norse prettr trick, prettugr tricky)
Related formspret·ti·ly, adverbpret·ti·ness, nounpret·ty·ish, adjectiveun·pret·ti·ly, adverbun·pret·ti·ness, nounun·pret·ty, adjective

Synonyms for pretty

2–4. pleasant. 10. somewhat.

Synonym study

1. See beautiful.

Antonyms for pretty

1. ugly.

Usage note

The qualifying adverb pretty, meaning “fairly or moderately” has been in general use since the late 16th century. Although most common in informal speech and writing, it is far from restricted to them, and often is less stilted than alternatives such as relatively, moderately, and quite. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pretty

Contemporary Examples of pretty

Historical Examples of pretty

  • You folks been cuttin' a pretty wide swath here in New York.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • "I've got something to do pretty quick," thought Robert, with satisfaction.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • "That's a pretty good afternoon's work," he said to himself.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Seems to me she did pretty well here; I don't see any kicks due her.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • "I've got a pretty good digestion, mother," said Robert, laughing.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

British Dictionary definitions for pretty


adjective -tier or -tiest

pleasing or appealing in a delicate or graceful way
dainty, neat, or charming
commendable; good of its kindhe replied with a pretty wit
informal, often ironic excellent, grand, or finehere's a pretty mess!
informal lacking in masculinity; effeminate; foppish
Scot vigorous or brave
an archaic word for elegant
a pretty penny informal a large sum of money
sitting pretty informal well placed or established financially, socially, etc

noun plural -ties

a pretty person or thing


informal fairly or moderately; somewhat
informal quite or very

verb -ties, -tying or -tied

(tr often foll by up) to make pretty; adorn
Derived Formsprettily, adverbprettiness, noun

Word Origin for pretty

Old English prættig clever; related to Middle Low German prattich obstinate, Dutch prettig glad, Old Norse prettugr cunning
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 pretty

Old English prættig (West Saxon), pretti (Kentish), *prettig (Mercian) "cunning, skillful, artful, wily, astute," from prætt, *prett "a trick, wile, craft," from West Germanic *pratt- (cf. Old Norse prettr "a trick," prettugr "tricky;" Frisian pret, Middle Dutch perte, Dutch pret "trick, joke," Dutch prettig "sportive, funny," Flemish pertig "brisk, clever"), of unknown origin.

Connection between Old English and Middle English words is uncertain, but if they are the same, meaning had shifted by c.1400 to "manly, gallant," and later moved via "attractive, skillfully made," to "fine," to "beautiful in a slight way" (mid-15c.). Ironical use from 1530s. For sense evolution, compare nice, silly. Also used of bees (c.1400). "After the OE. period the word is unknown till the 15th c., when it becomes all at once frequent in various senses, none identical with the OE., though derivable from it" [OED].

Meaning "not a few, considerable" is from late 15c. With a sense of "moderately," qualifying adjectives and adverbs, since 1560s. Pretty please as an emphatic plea is attested from 1902. A pretty penny "lot of money" is first recorded 1768.


1916, usually with up, from pretty (adj.). Related: Prettied; prettying. Cf. prettify.


"a pretty person or thing," 1736, from pretty (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with pretty


In addition to the idioms beginning with pretty

  • pretty as a picture
  • pretty much
  • pretty penny, a

also see:

  • in a fix (pretty pickle)
  • kettle of fish, pretty
  • sitting pretty
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.