plain

1 of 5

adjective

1
: lacking ornament : undecorated
2
: free of extraneous matter : pure
3
: free of impediments to view : unobstructed
4
a(1)
: evident to the mind or senses : obvious
it's perfectly plain that they will resist
(2)
: clear
let me make my meaning plain
b
: marked by outspoken candor : free from duplicity or subtlety : blunt
plain talk
5
a
: belonging to the masses : common
b
: lacking special distinction or affectation : ordinary
6
: characterized by simplicity : not complicated
plain home-cooked meals
7
: lacking beauty or ugliness
8
archaic : even, level
plainly adverb
plainness noun

plain

2 of 5

noun

1
a
: an extensive area of level or rolling treeless country
b
: a broad unbroken expanse
2
: something free from artifice, ornament, or extraneous matter

plain

3 of 5

adverb (1)

: in a plain manner : without obscurity or ambiguity
saw them clearly and told you plainAmer. Documentation

plain

4 of 5

adverb (2)

: absolutely sense 1a
plain wrong

plain

5 of 5

verb

plained; plaining; plains
Choose the Right Synonym for plain

common, ordinary, plain, familiar, popular, vulgar mean generally met with and not in any way special, strange, or unusual.

common implies usual everyday quality or frequency of occurrence

a common error
lacked common honesty

and may additionally suggest inferiority or coarseness.

common manners

ordinary stresses conformance in quality or kind with the regular order of things.

an ordinary pleasant summer day
a very ordinary sort of man

plain is likely to suggest homely simplicity.

plain hard-working people

familiar stresses the fact of being generally known and easily recognized.

a familiar melody

popular applies to what is accepted by or prevalent among people in general sometimes in contrast to upper classes or special groups.

a writer of popular romances

vulgar, otherwise similar to popular, is likely to carry derogatory connotations (as of inferiority or coarseness).

souvenirs designed to appeal to the vulgar taste

evident, manifest, patent, distinct, obvious, apparent, plain, clear mean readily perceived or apprehended.

evident implies presence of visible signs that lead one to a definite conclusion.

an evident fondness for sweets

manifest implies an external display so evident that little or no inference is required.

manifest hostility

patent applies to a cause, effect, or significant feature that is clear and unmistakable once attention has been directed to it.

patent defects

distinct implies such sharpness of outline or definition that no unusual effort to see or hear or comprehend is required.

a distinct refusal

obvious implies such ease in discovering that it often suggests conspicuousness or little need for perspicacity in the observer.

the obvious solution

apparent is very close to evident except that it may imply more conscious exercise of inference.

for no apparent reason

plain suggests lack of intricacy, complexity, or elaboration.

her feelings about him are plain

clear implies an absence of anything that confuses the mind or obscures the pattern.

a clear explanation

frank, candid, open, plain mean showing willingness to tell what one feels or thinks.

frank stresses lack of shyness or secretiveness or of evasiveness from considerations of tact or expedience.

frank discussions

candid suggests expression marked by sincerity and honesty especially in offering unwelcome criticism or opinion.

a candid appraisal

open implies frankness but suggests more indiscretion than frank and less earnestness than candid.

open in saying what they think

plain suggests outspokenness and freedom from affectation or subtlety in expression.

plain talk

Example Sentences

Adjective It was a plain room with no curtains. She was wearing plain black shoes. He printed the picture on plain paper. a piece of plain chicken You don't have to call me Mr. Johnson—just plain Fred will be fine. What he said is a lie, plain and simple. Noun the Great Plains of the United States the first settlers in that area lived on the vast plains in lonely log cabins See More

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin planum, from neuter of planus flat, plain — more at floor

Adverb (2)

partly from Middle English plein entire, complete, from Anglo-French, full, from Latin plenus; partly from plain entry 3 — more at full

Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French pleindre, plaindre, from Latin plangere to lament — more at plaint

First Known Use

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 8

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adverb (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Adverb (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of plain was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near plain

Cite this Entry

“Plain.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plain. Accessed 28 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

plain

1 of 4 noun
: a broad area of level or rolling treeless country

plain

2 of 4 adjective
1
: having no pattern or decoration
her dress was plain
2
: free of added or extra matter : pure
a glass of plain water
3
: open and clear to the sight
in plain view
4
a
: clear to the mind
your meaning was plain
b
: frank, blunt
plain speaking
5
a
: of common or average accomplishments or position : ordinary
plain people
b
: not complicated or hard to do
plain sewing
6
: neither ugly nor beautiful
plainly adverb
plainness
ˈplān-nəs
noun

plain

3 of 4 adverb
: in a plain or simple manner

plain

4 of 4 adverb
: to a complete degree : totally
were plain overcome by all the problems

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