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See also: Pretty


Alternative forms[edit]


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From Middle English prety, preti, praty, prati, from Old English prættiġ (tricky, crafty, sly, cunning, wily, astute), from Proto-Germanic *prattugaz (boastful, sly, slick, deceitful, tricky, cunning), corresponding to prat (trick) +‎ -y. Cognate with Dutch prettig (nice, pleasant), Low German prettig (funny), Icelandic prettugur (deceitful, tricky). For the semantic development, compare canny, clever, cute.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɹɪti/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈpɹɪti/, [ˈpɹɪɾi]
  • (file)
  • (US, dialectal) IPA(key): /ˈpɝti/
  • (US, rare) IPA(key): /ˈpɹʊti/
  • (US, dated or humerous) IPA(key): /ˈpɔɪti/
  • Rhymes: -ɪti


pretty (comparative prettier, superlative prettiest)

  1. Pleasant to the sight or other senses; attractive, especially of women or children. [from 15th c.]
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 17, in The China Governess[1]:
      The face which emerged was not reassuring. […]. He was not a mongol but there was a deficiency of a sort there, and it was not made more pretty by a latter-day hair cut which involved eccentrically long elf-locks and oiled black curls.
    • 2010 February 4, Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:
      To escape a violent beating from sailors to whom he has sold a non-functioning car, Jerry takes his stepfamily for a holiday in a trailer park miles away, where, miraculously, young Nick meets a very pretty young woman called Sheeni, played by Portia Doubleday.
  2. Of objects or things: nice-looking, appealing. [from 15th c.]
    • 2010 February 13, Lia Leendertz, The Guardian:
      'Petit Posy' brassicas [] are a cross between kale and brussels sprouts, and are really very pretty with a mild, sweet taste.
  3. (often derogatory) Fine-looking; only superficially attractive; initially appealing but having little substance; see petty. [from 15th c.]
    • 1962 September 28, “New Life for the Liberals”, in Time:
      Damned by the Socialists as "traitors to the working class," its leaders were decried by Tories as "faceless peddlers of politics with a pretty little trinket for every taste."
  4. (UK, sometimes derogatory) Effeminate.
  5. Cunning; clever, skilful. [from 9th c.]
    • 1877, George Hesekiel, Bayard Taylor, Bismarck his Authentic Biography, page 380:
      In the end, however, it was a very pretty shot, right across the chasm; killed first fire, and the brute fell headlong into the brook [] .
  6. (dated) Moderately large; considerable. [from 15th c.]
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, →OCLC, partition I, section 2, member 4, subsection vii:
      they flung all the goods in the house out at the windows into the street, or into the sea, as they supposed; thus they continued mad a pretty season […].
    • 2004 January 26, “Because They're Worth it”, in Time:
      "What did you do to your hair?" The answer could be worth a pretty penny for L'Oreal.
  7. (dated) Excellent, commendable, pleasing; fitting or proper (of actions, thoughts etc.). [from 16th c.]
    • 1815 December (indicated as 1816), [Jane Austen], Emma: [], volumes (please specify |volume=I, II or III), London: [] [Charles Roworth and James Moyes] for John Murray, →OCLC:
      Some people are surprised, I believe, that that the eldest was not [named after his father], but Isabella would have him named Henry, which I thought very pretty of her.
    • 1919, Saki, ‘The Oversight’, The Toys of Peace:
      ‘This new fashion of introducing the candidate's children into an election contest is a pretty one,’ said Mrs. Panstreppon; ‘it takes away something from the acerbity of party warfare, and it makes an interesting experience for the children to look back on in after years.’
    • 1926, Ernest Hemingway, The sun also rises, page 251:
      "Oh, Jake." Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together." Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me. "Yes", I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"
  8. (ironic) Awkward, unpleasant. [from 16th c.]
    • 1839, The Cottager's Monthly Visitor, volume 19, page 270:
      "Nay, not I; it is a pretty thing to expect me to wash them; you may take them back again, and say, as Sally had them before, she may wash them now, for me; I am not going to be 'Jack at a pinch,' I can tell you."
    • 1877, Anna Sewell, Black Beauty:
      A pretty thing it would be if a man of business had to examine every cab-horse before he hired it
    • 1931 January 26, “Done to a Turn”, in Time:
      His sadistic self-torturings finally landed him in a pretty mess: still completely married, practically sure he was in love with Tillie, he made dishonorable proposals of marriage to two other women.
    • 1995, Les Standiford, Deal to die for, page 123:
      " [] you can still see where the kid's face is swollen up from this talk: couple of black eyes, lip all busted up, nose over sideways," Driscoll shook his head again, "just a real pretty picture."


Derived terms[edit]


  • Japanese: プリティー (puritī), プリティ (puriti), プリチー (purichī)


Further reading[edit]


pretty (not comparable)

  1. Somewhat, fairly, quite; sometimes also (by meiosis) very.
  2. (dialect) Prettily, in a pretty manner.
    • 1861, George Eliot, Silas Marner, London: Penguin Books, published 1967, page 139:
      'The boy sings pretty, don't he, Master Marner?'

Usage notes[edit]

  • When particularly stressed, the adverb pretty serves almost to diminish the adjective or adverb that it modifies, by emphasizing that there are greater levels of intensity.

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


pretty (plural pretties)

  1. A pretty person; a term of address to a pretty person.
    • 1939, Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf, The Wizard of Oz:
      I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!
  2. Something that is pretty.
    We'll stop at the knife store and look at the sharp pretties.


pretty (third-person singular simple present pretties, present participle prettying, simple past and past participle prettied)

  1. To make pretty; to beautify
    • 2007, Eric Knight, Lassie Come-Home[2], →ISBN, page 29:
      He sat on the hearth rug and began prettying the dog's coat.

Derived terms[edit]