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Alternative forms


Inherited from Middle English ugly, uggely, uglike, borrowed from Old Norse uggligr (fearful, dreadful, horrible in appearance), from uggr (fear, apprehension, dread) (possibly related to agg (strife, hate)), equivalent to ug +‎ -ly. Cognate with Scots ugly, uglie, Icelandic ugglegur. Meaning softened to "very unpleasant to look at" around the late 14th century, and sense of "morally offensive" attested from around 1300.



ugly (comparative uglier, superlative ugliest)

  1. Displeasing to the eye; aesthetically unpleasing.
  2. Displeasing to the ear or some other sense.
  3. Offensive to one's sensibilities or morality.
    He played an ugly trick on us.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      All this was extraordinarily distasteful to Churchill. It was ugly, gross. Never before had he felt such repulsion when the vicar displayed his characteristic bluntness or coarseness of speech. In the present connexion—or rather as a transition from the subject that started their conversation—such talk had been distressingly out of place.
  4. (Southern US) Ill-natured; crossgrained; quarrelsome.
    an ugly temper; to feel ugly
  5. Unpleasant; disagreeable; likely to cause trouble or loss.
    an ugly rumour; an ugly customer; an ugly wound
    With all this competition, expect things to get ugly.



Derived terms

Compound words and expressions


  • Sranan Tongo: ogri


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ugly (countable and uncountable, plural uglies)

  1. (slang, uncountable) Ugliness.
  2. (slang) An ugly person or thing.
  3. (logistics, informal) Any product whose size and shape prevents it from fitting neatly on a pallet.
    • 1983, Australian Transport, page 16:
      These are firstly for products which need a cool room; secondly for products which can be stored on a standard pallet without overhang; and thirdly for products known as "the uglies" which always overhang a standard pallet.
    • 2022, Alan Rushton, Phil Croucher, Peter Baker, The Handbook of Logistics and Distribution Management, page 591:
      Non-standard products (abnormal or 'uglies'): many distribution operations are designed to cater for standard palletized products.
  4. (UK, informal, dated) A shade for the face, projecting from a bonnet.
    • 1857, Charles Kingsley, “(please specify the page)”, in Two Years Ago, volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Macmillan and Co., →OCLC:
      [] camp-stools, telescopes, poetry-books, blue uglies, red petticoats, and parasols of every hue.



ugly (third-person singular simple present uglies, present participle uglying, simple past and past participle uglied)

  1. (transitive, nonstandard) To make ugly (sometimes with up).
    • 2011, P. A. Krishnan, Muddy River:
      I move noiselessly, eat my food carefully without uglying the dining table with its remnants, fold my bedsheets in neat rectangles and place them on the bed in perfect symmetry.
    • 2012, Najib George Awad, And Freedom Became a Public-square, page 197:
      There is time when the absence of either integrity or humility has uglied the face of the church before the world and turned Christianity into just another cocoon of condemnation and hypocrisy.
    • 2014, Jonathan Crocker, A Dream of Hope and Sorrow:
      He had spent half of his journey mulling over how he would savour his revenge. He could already envision her pretty little form lying prone at his feet. He would take great pleasure in uglying her up a little before killing her.