homely plain ugly

Are these synonymous to you? Not to me. I find myself saying about a woman (to myself) “she’s plain but not ugly” or “she’s definitely ugly, but not homely” but I think people tend to use them more or less interchangibly sometimes.

Just now, I saw a music video of some French singer (can’t tell you who, it was playing in the gym in French and I didn’t catch many details) who was extremely homely, but not at all plain. That is, she had a big nose and awkward hair and was all sorts of flamboyant, but not totally unattractive, either. (I think that was the point of showing off her long legs throughout the music video.) She was homely, but not plain or ugly.

Madonna, to me, is ugly but not homely or plain. I find Anjelica Huston very homely but not really ugly. I can;t think of a “plain” woman whom you’d all know, but “plain” implies a woman who can’t wear clothes or do her hair but who, even if she did know how to do these things, still wouldn’t be attractive for some unknowable reason. I’ve had crushes on plain women, but I always knew that I’d find it hard maintaining my sexual interest beyond a certain point.

Is this just me, or are these universal principles?

Sissy Spacek is plain.
Debbie Mazar is homely.
Ma Kettle is ugly.


To me, ugly has an actively repulsive element to it. Madonna is an excellent example. Other “famous beauties” I find to be ugly include Jodie Foster (post ca.-2000) and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Plain is most commonly used, in my experience, as a euphemism for homely, but I actually differentiate between them. Plain is more attractive, if not any prettier, than homely. The Barefoot Contessa is plain; Julia Child, may she rest in piece, was homely.

That’s Marjorie Main? That photo doesn’t look like the Ma Kettle I remember. She probably looked just fine when she was younger.

I’ve never seen a woman (or a man) who I’d call ugly. Wait. Maybe Edward G. Robinson, but only because there’s an old cartoon with caricatures of 40’s movie stars and they made him look toad-like. He looks okay with a beard – it diminishes his wide mouth.

I agree with your definition of plain – plain can be pretty with some attention to hair, makeup, and clothes (clothes that fit properly – doesn’t have to be fashionable).

Homely – Miss Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies. Agnes Moorehead when she was older. Margaret Hamilton. But they had interesting faces and could be attractive, depending on the roles they played. If the character was sympathetic, they didn’t seem so homely.

The only woman I can think of who I thought was really ugly was a woman with no chin, but she had a rotten personality and she was stupid to boot, so that affected how I saw her.

For me:

Plain=Kind of nondescript, lacking in character. Not attractive enough to be pretty/handsome, not unattractive enough to be homely. To me attention to wardrobe and grooming doesn’t always make a difference; I’ve can think of women and men who are plain even when they are all dolled up.
Homely=Unattractive, but not repulsive. I agree homely face can have character and that one can also warm up to it over time.

Homely French singer

Look at her images on Google Image Search. I think she’s very attractive, not homely at all.

Go for it, then. She’s a big-nosed, weird-haired gawky French chick, but whatever floats your bateau…

If she’s attractive, though, I’d sure like to know who you think is homely.

I think “homely” and “plain” are closer to being synonymous than “ugly” is to either of them. To me, “plain” implies features that are uninteresting or colorless (figuratively), while “homely” is more actively “off” than that. “Homely” has a wonky eye or an unfortunate nose.

But neither are ugly. “Ugly” requires some backup from the personality.

At the same time, “plain” and “homely” do not prohibit the individual from being attractive in general. Many find Sarah Jessica Parker homely, but I think she’s an attractive woman with a charming sparkle to her.

Same with Steve Buscemi. I’d call him “homely” but he’s also adorable in his own way.

Yeah she has a weird look, but she makes it work for her. As for homely women, gee, I don’t really have an image in my head. How about the mom from Home Improvement?