1 of 5


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


2 of 5


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


3 of 5

adverb (1)

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


4 of 5

adverb (2)

: absolutely sense 1a
plain wrong


5 of 5


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

Examples of plain in a Sentence

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 Adverb (1) told her plain that he loved her
Recent Examples on the Web
But as the war dragged on, fissures between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz came into plain sight. Adam Rasgon, New York Times, 9 June 2024 Instead of a plain, slightly chunky black wand, the new remote is a sleek, silver (still plastic, but pleasantly textured) rectangle. PCMAG, 30 May 2024
Work release increasingly rare in rural areas In the 13th Judicial District on Colorado’s northeastern plains, all four county jails offered work release before the pandemic. Shelly Bradbury, The Denver Post, 13 June 2024 Brown traveled on across the flood plain to reach the Arkansas River. Boyce Upholt, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 June 2024
Also, because The Acolyte is just plain fun, in the mode of a pulpy adventure novel or an open-world video game. Jackson McHenry, Vulture, 6 June 2024 The visual style is different, too; the original was plain black, while this has a lighter two-tone design. Matthew Buzzi, PCMAG, 5 June 2024
Senior reviewer Scott Gilbertson's daughter has worn these for two years— everywhere from the icy, windy Colorado plains to the windswept Outer Banks—and she's had toasty toes throughout. Scott Gilbertson, WIRED, 27 Nov. 2023 Whereas his first billions were owed to plain, functional, durable clothing at minimal cost, today Uniqlo has moved up the value chain. Time, 13 Nov. 2023 See all Example Sentences for plain 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'plain.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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


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

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 8


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


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.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


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


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


3 of 4 adverb
: in a plain or simple manner


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


Middle English plain "a stretch of nearly level treeless country," from early French plain (same meaning), derived from Latin planus "flat" — related to plane entry 1


partly from Middle English plein (adjective) "entire, complete" (derived from Latin plenus "full") and partly from plain (adverb) "in a plain manner" (derived from Latin planus "flat, level")

More from Merriam-Webster on plain

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