Definition of ugly in English:


adjectiveugliest, uglier

  • 1Unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance.

    ‘people in school always told me I was ugly’
    ‘the ugly sound of a fire alarm’
    • ‘She tries to speak but there is only an ugly gasping sound.’
    • ‘Its merciless laugh was like blood bubbling in its tufted throat, an ugly sneer produced in sounds.’
    • ‘Despite their ugly appearance, their bodies are ideally shaped for relentless running down of prey.’
    • ‘The bookcase made an, ugly scraping sound as they pushed it, but it was moving.’
    • ‘They were fat, ugly men with wicked faces, like the one in the picture on the opposite page.’
    • ‘Big, bald and ugly, he appears the embodiment of what the XFL sees itself becoming.’
    • ‘I experience things as beautiful or ugly, pleasant or unpleasant, agreeable or disagreeable.’
    • ‘It was not stream lined, more like gothic beehive in appearance with ugly spires jutting from both ends of the craft's structure.’
    • ‘American society, on the other hand, has always regarded the fat person as ugly and offensive.’
    • ‘The sad, the ignored, the ugly and the repulsive wander in between the hours of 12 and 5.’
    • ‘If reality is too ugly or unpleasant, we shut it out and pretend it's not there.’
    • ‘But my current phone is a Sharp, and it has a fat ugly connector that no-one seems to have.’
    • ‘Peter laughed, his voice sounding harsh and ugly, and his mouth twisted into a sardonic sneer.’
    • ‘His wrist gave an ugly grinding sound and searing pain tore through him like knives.’
    • ‘He started chanting the incantation of a dark spell, full of ugly guttural sounds.’
    • ‘She refused to look up at him but his ugly reflection appeared in the water.’
    • ‘The election result is basically one big, fat, ugly dark cloud with a few little silver linings hanging off it.’
    • ‘The answer occurred to me almost straight away - I was repulsed because they were ugly!’
    • ‘Sam, what on earth possessed you to spend all that time making a terrine that has the appearance of an ugly, withered, old leather boot?’
    • ‘What I didn't like was the cruel way the north wind would dry out my lips to such an extent that a huge ugly gash always appeared on my bottom lip.’
    unattractive, ill-favoured, hideous, plain, plain-featured, plain-looking, unlovely, unprepossessing, unsightly, displeasing, disagreeable
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  • 2Involving or likely to involve violence or other unpleasantness.

    ‘the mood in the room turned ugly’
    • ‘Luckily, the timely intervention of a dutiful cop prevented the scene from getting ugly.’
    • ‘You might have expected an ugly scene, or at least the odd raised voice.’
    • ‘When thousands of desperate applicants instead showed up, the scene quickly turned ugly and the police intervened.’
    • ‘The ugly scenes witnessed last year are sure to make a comeback this year.’
    • ‘Beyond that, there were no reports of violence and other ugly scenes that have characterised past elections.’
    • ‘I asked myself whether I really wanted to get involved in this ugly, terrible stuff.’
    • ‘Angry scenes and ugly fracas are commonplace as people scramble for the few available taxis.’
    • ‘As the ugly scenes on the pitch spilled over into the crowd, police were called to the Corbet Field ground.’
    • ‘He says that we are not yet seeing the kind of rage which accompanies the surfing season in Australia, where crowded surf can lead to ugly scenes.’
    • ‘I quickly called my partner over and we watched in terror as it all unfolded into a really ugly scene.’
    • ‘It's hard not to warm to these men, who are nothing like the ugly, violent stereotypes we expect them to be.’
    • ‘The management and board, smelling a big ugly scene, capitulated and accepted the union.’
    • ‘Timely intervention by the respective authorities prevented an ugly scene.’
    • ‘It was, in fact, not an ugly scene but at best it was one in which there might have been a subtle sneer involved.’
    • ‘I just don't see how creating an ugly, violent scene could possibly make those bereaved parents feel better.’
    • ‘Now that we have the names of the eight bidders, how interesting and how ugly is it likely to be?’
    • ‘Today these ugly scenes and remarks could be seen and heard on TV, worldwide, unlike in the past.’
    • ‘Taiwanese realize the danger that China poses, but they do not think this is a danger that is likely to turn very ugly very quickly.’
    • ‘For a moment, it was if she had left her body and was watching this ugly scene happen to someone else.’
    • ‘This is a film of uncompromising intensity and breathstealing beauty, as violent and ugly as anything that nature can conceive.’
    unpleasant, nasty, alarming, disagreeable, tense, charged, serious, grave, dangerous, perilous, threatening, menacing, hostile, ominous, sinister
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    1. 2.1 Unpleasantly suggestive; causing disquiet.
      ‘ugly rumours persisted that there had been a cover-up’
      • ‘She thought of the ugly rumors that were going around about her and it released her anger a little.’
      • ‘She looked at the boys as their mouths formed the sounds of ugly words, pouring down at her like hot molasses.’
      horrible, unpleasant, disagreeable, despicable, reprehensible, nasty, horrid, appalling, objectionable, offensive, obnoxious, foul, vile, base, dishonourable, dishonest, rotten, vicious, spiteful, malevolent, evil, wicked
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    2. 2.2 Morally repugnant.
      ‘racism and its most ugly manifestations, racial attacks and harassment’
      • ‘To hear him speak is a sobering reminder of the ugly scars left behind by apartheid.’
      • ‘Since then, I have noticed that democracy isn't always pretty and capitalism can be downright ugly.’
      • ‘That's the ugly reality behind the intellectual justifications of realpolitik.’
      • ‘By doing this, it suggests continuity with the old regime, rather than complicity in an ugly coup of a popular mayor.’
      • ‘These days most of us don't want to get too involved in national politics because it seems to partisan and ugly.’
      • ‘In his prime, his vindictiveness was ugly and frightening; now it's ugly and a little pathetic.’
      • ‘There is nobody more ugly than a violent wing nut embracing his victimhood.’
      • ‘But there's a second kind of criticism that says the political run-up to this thing was pretty ugly.’
      • ‘Sadly, the ugly arm of slavery reaches far beyond Sudan and shockingly touches every continent except Antarctica.’
      • ‘He is so ugly on the inside that his only forte is being beautiful and absolutely vicious on the outside!’
      • ‘But the offer is vetoed by Finn, who alone sees the ugly fascist behind The Man's smooth mask of respectability.’
      horrible, unpleasant, disagreeable, despicable, reprehensible, nasty, horrid, appalling, objectionable, offensive, obnoxious, foul, vile, base, dishonourable, dishonest, rotten, vicious, spiteful, malevolent, evil, wicked
      View synonyms


Middle English: from Old Norse uggligr ‘to be dreaded’, from ugga ‘to dread’.