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[hohm-lee] /ˈhoʊm li/
adjective, homelier, homeliest.
lacking in physical attractiveness; not beautiful; unattractive:
a homely child.
not having elegance, refinement, or cultivation.
proper or suited to the home or to ordinary domestic life; plain; unpretentious:
homely food.
commonly seen or known.
Origin of homely
1300-50; Middle English homly. See home, -ly
Related forms
homeliness, noun
overhomeliness, noun
overhomely, adjective
unhomeliness, noun
unhomely, adjective
Can be confused
homely, homey.
homely, homily.
Synonym Study
1, 2, 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. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for homely
  • If he explains fully, with lots of homely illustrations and comparisons, he is apt to lose his readers in a haystack of details.
  • More homely galaxies, too, may be controlled by their starbursts.
  • In this day and age, a simple solvent will suffice to turn homely vegetation into a source of precious metals.
  • Two years is a long time to travel for a blind date, especially if it's a rather homely piece of rock hurtling through space.
  • After being bitten by an undead patient, a homely nurse transforms into a comely ghoul.
  • The entire novel is marked by this turn toward the homely and the unnoticed.
  • His homely approach, cautious support for reform and will to get things done could appeal to voters.
  • Six years ago it created a homely centre for those in care.
  • She reverses the usual, she hitches her star to a wagon, transfixing homely daily phrases for poetic purposes.
  • The careful local observations and homely details of his poems often have deep symbolic, even metaphysical, significance.
British Dictionary definitions for homely


adjective -lier, -liest
characteristic of or suited to the ordinary home; unpretentious
(of a person)
  1. (Brit) warm and domesticated in manner or appearance
  2. (mainly US & Canadian) plain or ugly
Derived Forms
homeliness, 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
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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
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