ugly duckling

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Calque of Danish grim ælling. From the fairy tale of a duckling, considered ugly, that matures into a magnificent swan.


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ugly duckling (plural ugly ducklings)

  1. (idiomatic) A young person who is ugly, but who is expected to become beautiful as they mature.
    • 2019 December 4, Andy Coward, “Derby's crowning achievement”, in Rail, page 57:
      The ugly duckling has become a very fine swan, and Rachel Sprigg and her team have worked hard to ensure that Derby is a worthy winner of that coveted National Rail Award. They can be proud of their achievements.