an unattractive or unpromising child who becomes a beautiful or much-admired adult.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use ugly duckling in a sentence
For this ugly duckling we worked on elongating the neck and reducing the waddle, so she moved more gracefully.Style Invitational Week 1436: Haven’t seen it — new plots for movie titles | Pat Myers | May 13, 2021 | Washington Post
Eliza was the ugly duckling of her high school, voted “Most Butt” of her senior class.
It's fashionable to lament the status of the novella: unjustly neglected, the ugly duckling of the literary world, etc.
They were an odd contrast—the mother and son—suggesting the homely but immortal comparison of the hen with the ugly duckling.The Camp Fire Girls at the End of the Trail | Margaret Vandercook
No, my dear, you were never an ugly duckling, but what I mean is that you have turned from a fairy into a pretty nymph.A Son of Perdition | Fergus Hume
We all know the story of the ugly duckling, and the little promise which it gave of its future beauty.Mythical Monsters | Charles Gould
You all know the story of the “ugly duckling,” and how, after all, it became a beautiful white swan.Our Frank | Amy Walton
In the family nest he is the ugly duckling; in the world he is persecuted.The Modern Malady | Cyril Bennett
British Dictionary definitions for ugly duckling
a person or thing, initially ugly or unpromising, that changes into something beautiful or admirable
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
Other Idioms and Phrases with ugly duckling
A homely or unpromising individual who grows into an attractive or talented person, as in She was the family ugly duckling but blossomed in her twenties. This term alludes to Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale about a cygnet hatched with ducklings that is despised for its clumsiness until it grows up into a beautiful swan. The tale was first translated into English in 1846, and the term was used figuratively by 1871.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.