pretty lovely attractive

Synonyms or no?

Would you ever say about a woman “She’s attractive, but I wouldn’t call her pretty”? “She’s pretty but do you really think she’s lovely?” Are these distinctions without differences?

If you’re a woman, would you consider one of the adjectives to be sincerely admiring if it were applied to you, and one of them perhaps probably insincere? Is “attractive,” for example, possibly pejorative in that it implies “Well, somebody, somewhere, might feel drawn to her, though certainly not me,” or is “attractive” the most complimentary of the three and the one you’d hope would be most sincerely applied to you?

Can you name one celeb to whom each word applies much more than the others? Julia Roberts, for example, the movie title not withstanding, isn’t what I’d call “pretty” but she’s certainly attractive. (I’d say “pretty” applied to her the least of the three words–she looks like The Joker to me, not that I’d kick her out of bed for eating HiHos.) Now, Shania Twain–all three apply, but if I had to pick one it would be “pretty.” “Lovely” to me implies a kind of sweetness of personality that underlies the good appearance, and it’s hard to know celebs’ personalities, but maybe “lovely” would apply to Karen Carpenter, who I would kick out of bed but only because her corpse probably is starting to smell by now.

Anyway, who’s pretty? Who’s lovely? Who’s attractive? And if you’re a woman, which is one would be the most and least sincerely applied to you? (Also, “How YOU doin’”?)

A woman who’s lovely has a big heart. A woman who’s attractive has a big attitude. A woman who’s pretty has big… er, full lips.

Attractive is the same as pretty, but she carries it better. I’ve seen some very pretty women who move, talk, and act in very unattractive ways. And I’ve seen some “plain” women who, because of the demeanors, were hot hot hot.

Lovely is an adjective you’d use to describe your grandmother.

Wasn’t there a News Radio (or some show) bit about this? Sexy was pretty but easy, gorgeous was pretty with good hair, striking was pretty with a big nose, exotic was ugly…

Ah yes, here’s a link.

Pretty means I’d bring her home to Mom
Attractive means that no particular feature stands out but the whole package is nice
Lovely is a demure “attractive” with maturity


Cute means pixie-like or childlike qualities
Beautiful means she looks great even without makeup and her hair done
Sexy means she either wants it or she wants to tease you into wanting it, or “nice legs, shame about the face”
Gorgeous means you trip because you’re staring too hard

And then there’s “nice personality.” :wink:

For me, …

pretty for me is entirely about looks, specifically her face.

lovely for me always carries with it a connotation of gracefulness and kindness, and consequently a connotation of a certain level of emotional maturity.

attractive is entirely about f&ckability, but is a pretty low passing grade on that scale, like a C. Below that is the “I do her” level.

Can we get some examples of each? And compare notes?

Jeez man. Do you have high standards or what?


Cute is waifish, child-like. A good example would be a young Valerie Bertinelli, or Winnona Ryder with those big eyes of hers. Cute usually gives way to pretty, as years go by. Cute does not always hold up with age, though Goldie Hawn got away with it forever.

Pretty is a more womanly look. For many years, my benchmark for pretty was Jennifer O’Neal in the movie “Summer of '42”. The prettiest woman ever. Today, pretty would be someone like Alyson Hannigan, though when she has a slight grim or smirk, tends to look more cute than pretty. I would also recommend Alicia Silverstone, pre-skinny Nicole Kidman, Heather Graham and Eliza Dushku.

Attractive fits those women who are not conventionally pretty, but are still very attractive. Guys will usually really like them or really not. It is their divergence from conventional good looks that makes them more appealing. In this group I would put Milla Jovovich, Claudia Black, Jodie Foster, Lena Headey and Julianne Moore.

Beautiful is much harder. Beauty is an elegance, a grace, so it often comes more with age than physical looks alone. Many women can look beautiful when properly dressed, their hair done “just so”, but beauty is not very common. Someone like pre-skinny Keira Knightley has a most beautiful face, and Nicole Kidman has looked quite beautiful in the past.
Beauty also means a classic beauty and form. I think the best example of this is Rene Russo, a truly beautiful woman, through all her ages. Another would be Erin Gray.
A good example of beauty from grace, and not just looks alone, would be Helen Mirren.

Gorgeous is a little harder to describe. This would be a woman that is pretty to an extent that it takes your breath away. A good example of this would be Michelle Phieffer.

Everyone will have different catagories, and think differently what each style is, but I am constantly surprised by how many guys use all the above descriptions interchangeably, as if they all meant the same thing. You may not agree who fits in what catagory, but at least recognise that they do imply different things.

Pretty is what I’d call someone who, I’d assume, others would find pretty as well. Good skin, shiny hair. I could see why someone else might be attracted to her even if I’m not.

I don’t think I’d describe a woman as attractive. I guess if someone asked me, ‘Is soandso attractive?’ I’d either say ‘Yeah, there’s something about her…’ or ‘Nah.Unremarkable.’

‘Lovely,’ to me, is how a grandmother would describe a woman who’s tidy and polite, with an extra bit of self-sacrifice or charm.

I guess I’d be fine with any of these descriptions. I know I fit the definition of ‘pretty’ for a lot of people, but that’s in large part because of what the media encourages us to find pretty. I could only be called ‘lovely’ on a good day, if I was wearing a sun dress and not drinking too much.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never used the word “lovely” in my life.


Jena Malone is pretty.

Sarah Fimm is lovely.

Hilary Swank is attractive.

Dana Delaney is lovely. Jennifer Aniston is pretty. Attractive is more generic. Dana Delaney is attractive, in a lovely way. Jennifer Aniston is attractive, in a pretty way. Etc. The third main category of attractive should instead be sexy. These are definitely differences with a distinction. People have all sorts of qualities that make them attractive. Even when you narrow them down to the merely physical.

I have to disagree with some of **strangers **examples.

lovely / beautiful - Classic mature womanly good looks. More statueque than ‘pretty’. Femme fatalle. - Catherine Zeta Jones, Kim Basinger, Sharon Stone

pretty - A little younger and more girly and sweet than lovely or beautify. Still a bit of a “look but don’t touch” factor. The popular girl. - Reece Witherspoon, Rennee Zeilweger, Christina Applegate

sexy - Someone you would just want to bang cause their so damn hot. The party girl. - Cameron Diaz, Ali Larter, Demi Moore, Meagan Fox

cute - Kind of petite and good looking but not the pretiest. Girl next door. - Alyson Hannigan, Sarah Jessica Parker

attractive - Not really good looking, but there is something about them. TV ugly. - Claudia Black, Katee Sackhoff

butterface - Ugly girl with a hot body. - Hillary Swank.

In my mind, all pretty girls are attractive, but all attractive girls are not necessarily pretty.

as far as lovely goes, I have no idea, I would never call someone that. I can’t really recall ever hearing it used outside of that “isn’t she lovely” song, which just makes me dislike the word more.

I was thinking of exactly this in devising the OP, but felt that “sexy” would cause this thread to devolve very quickly into a discussion of which women had posed for shots spreadeagled with their girly bits open for gynocological consideration.

Maybe “lovely” is the same thing as “breathtaking”. IOW a polite way of saying “ugly”.

And then there’s when you say a girl is “pretty ugly.” This is often difficult to explain to a non-native speaker.

To me, attractive is sexually attractive. I would sleep with this woman (hypothetically, of course; I’m married.) She is usually - but not always - pretty. Some girls that I wouldn’t think of as sexual partners at first turn out to have amazing personalities and I find myself attracted to them. Like my high school biology teacher. I can’t think of any celebrity examples of this.

Pretty is just that - good-looking. These girls are usually - but not always - attractive. Sometimes a pretty girl has the personality of a wooden spoon, or otherwise just doesn’t do much for me sexually for some reason, and I don’t think of her as attractive. Again, hard to think of celebrity examples, but Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Alba, and Katherine Heigl come to mind.

As a woman, I don’t appreciate being called attractive or pretty as compliments. I consider “pretty” to be something you would say to a child or a teen, and “attractive” is something you’d remark about a boss or co-worker. Lovely implies success at every aspect of the ideal of being a woman: beauty, intelligence, character, grace. If a man told me I was lovely, sincerely and with eye contact, I’d melt.

Pretty: Leighton Meester, Kate Bosworth, Rachel Bilson
Attractive: Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Angelica Houston

Lovely: Indira Varma, Julianne Moore, Helen Mirren