adjective, pret·ti·er, pret·ti·est.
  1. pleasing or attractive to the eye, as by delicacy or gracefulness: a pretty face.
  2. (of things, places, etc.) pleasing to the eye, especially without grandeur.
  3. pleasing to the ear: a pretty tune.
  4. pleasing to the mind or aesthetic taste: He writes pretty little stories.
  5. (often used ironically) fine; grand: This is a pretty mess!
  6. Informal. considerable; fairly great: This accident will cost him a pretty sum.
  7. Archaic or Scot.. brave; hardy.
noun, plural pret·ties.
  1. Usually pretties. pretty ornaments, clothes, etc.
  2. a pretty person: Sit down, my pretty.
  1. fairly or moderately: Her work was pretty good.
  2. quite; very: The wind blew pretty hard.
  3. Informal. prettily.
verb (used with object), pret·tied, pret·ty·ing.
  1. to make pretty; improve the appearance of (sometimes followed by up): to pretty oneself for a party; to pretty up a room.
  1. 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. 2018

Examples from the Web for unpretty

Contemporary Examples of unpretty

Historical Examples of unpretty

  • What, then, is to become of the penniless, and the unpretty!

    Dealings With The Dead

    A Sexton of the Old School

  • As a general rule he keeps himself very far from the negro and says unpretty things about him.

    From Sea to Sea

    Rudyard Kipling

  • But he grimaced and held himself awake to contemplate the unpretty spectacle of himself and his actions.

    Operation: Outer Space

    William Fitzgerald Jenkins

  • Bill stood looking at Toppy with a scowl on his unpretty face, awaiting the order to go in with the other men.

    The Snow-Burner

    Henry Oyen

British Dictionary definitions for unpretty


adjective -tier or -tiest
  1. pleasing or appealing in a delicate or graceful way
  2. dainty, neat, or charming
  3. commendable; good of its kindhe replied with a pretty wit
  4. informal, often ironic excellent, grand, or finehere's a pretty mess!
  5. informal lacking in masculinity; effeminate; foppish
  6. Scot vigorous or brave
  7. an archaic word for elegant
  8. a pretty penny informal a large sum of money
  9. sitting pretty informal well placed or established financially, socially, etc
noun plural -ties
  1. a pretty person or thing
  1. informal fairly or moderately; somewhat
  2. informal quite or very
verb -ties, -tying or -tied
  1. (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 unpretty



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 unpretty


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.