pretty

1 of 4

adjective

pret·​ty ˈpri-tē How to pronounce pretty (audio) ˈpər- How to pronounce pretty (audio)
 also  ˈpru̇-
prettier; prettiest
1
a
b
: pat, apt
2
a
: pleasing by delicacy or grace
b
: having conventionally accepted elements of beauty
c
: appearing or sounding pleasant or nice but lacking strength, force, manliness, purpose, or intensity
pretty words that make no senseElizabeth B. Browning
3
a
: miserable, terrible
a pretty mess you've gotten us into
b
chiefly Scotland : stout
4
: moderately large : considerable
a very pretty profit
cost a pretty penny
5
: easy to enjoy : pleasant
usually used in negative constructions
reality is not so prettyCaleb Solomon
prettily
ˈpri-tə-lē How to pronounce pretty (audio)
ˈpər-
 also  ˈpru̇-
adverb
prettyish
ˈpri-tē-ish How to pronounce pretty (audio)
ˈpər-
 also  ˈpru̇-
adjective

pretty

2 of 4

adverb

pret·​ty ˈpri-tē How to pronounce pretty (audio) ˈpər- How to pronounce pretty (audio)
 also  ˈpru̇-;
 before "near(ly)" often  ˈpərt,
 or  ˈprit,
 or  ˈpru̇t
1
a
: in some degree : moderately
pretty cold weather
b
: quite, mainly
the wound was … pretty badWalt Whitman
2
: in a gracefully pleasing manner : prettily
pop vocalists who can sing prettyGerald Levitch
Using Pretty as an Adverb: Usage Guide

Some handbooks complain that pretty is overworked and recommend the selection of a more specific word or advise that pretty should be restricted to informal or colloquial contexts. Pretty is used to tone down a statement and is in wide use across the whole spectrum of English. It is common in informal speech and writing but is neither rare nor wrong in serious discourse

he may, if he be pretty well off or clever, qualify himself as a doctor G. B. Shaw
a return to those traditions of American foreign policy which worked pretty well for over a century H. S. Commager
the arguments for buying expensive books have to be pretty cogent The Times Literary Supplement (London)

pretty

3 of 4

noun

pret·​ty ˈpri-tē How to pronounce pretty (audio) ˈpər- How to pronounce pretty (audio)
 also  ˈpru̇-
plural pretties
1
pretties plural : dainty clothes
especially : lingerie
2
: a pretty person or thing

pretty

4 of 4

verb

pret·​ty ˈpri-tē How to pronounce pretty (audio) ˈpər- How to pronounce pretty (audio)
 also  ˈpru̇-
prettied; prettying

transitive verb

: to make pretty
usually used with up
curtains to pretty up the room
Phrases
pretty much
Choose the Right Synonym for pretty

beautiful, lovely, handsome, pretty, comely, fair mean exciting sensuous or aesthetic pleasure.

beautiful applies to whatever excites the keenest of pleasure to the senses and stirs emotion through the senses.

beautiful mountain scenery

lovely is close to beautiful but applies to a narrower range of emotional excitation in suggesting the graceful, delicate, or exquisite.

a lovely melody

handsome suggests aesthetic pleasure due to proportion, symmetry, or elegance.

a handsome Georgian mansion

pretty often applies to superficial or insubstantial attractiveness.

a painter of conventionally pretty scenes

comely is like handsome in suggesting what is coolly approved rather than emotionally responded to.

the comely grace of a dancer

fair suggests beauty because of purity, flawlessness, or freshness.

fair of face

Examples of pretty in a Sentence

Adjective This white shape stood apart by the hedge alone. From her position he knew it to be the pretty maiden with whom he had not danced. Trifling as the matter was, he yet instinctively felt that she was hurt by his oversight. Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, 1891
Darcy, on the contrary, had seen a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion, for none of whom he had felt the smallest interest, and from none received either attention or pleasure. Miss Bennet he acknowledged to be pretty, but she smiled too much. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813
He made a pretty profit selling his antique car. She received a pretty sum of money. Adverb By taunting the police, beating drums and throwing rocks, the rioters make it pretty clear that they want not a rational debate but the world's attention … Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, 30 Apr. 2001
… I could pretty much go wherever I felt a story led … Roy Blount, Jr., New York Times Book Review, 9 Mar. 1986
… regards most of us as pretty irrevocably plunged in illusion. Iris Murdoch, The Fire and the Sun, 1977
The reflected radiance served to show, pretty distinctly, the aspect and arrangement of the room which Hepzibah entered, after descending the stairs. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables, 1851
“Did you put the keys on the table?” “I'm pretty sure I did.” The teams are pretty equally matched. The work is pretty hard. I have to leave pretty soon. The movie was pretty good but not great. They've accomplished some pretty amazing things. She was driving pretty fast. Verb She prettied the cake with icing, sprinkles, and nuts.
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Saturday’s third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown will, once again, be the pretty girl at the prom who gets jilted when her date doesn’t show up. Bill Dwyre, Los Angeles Times, 8 June 2024 Decorative Pebbles Filling a clear cylindrical vase with decorative stones or beads is an especially pretty way to hold stems in place. Mackenzie Nichols, Better Homes & Gardens, 6 June 2024
Adverb
Costa Rica—with its peerless natural beauty—comes pretty close. Chadner Navarro, Vogue, 15 June 2024 That morning beer the hosts had was probably pretty spectacular, too. Christopher Kuhagen, Journal Sentinel, 14 June 2024
Noun
Aimée and Trintignant are movie-star pretty, but Lelouch’s style gives them both a weighty humanity, as do their performances. Carmel Dagan, Variety, 18 June 2024 Wise is the new pretty. Susan Dunne, courant.com, 28 Sep. 2020
Verb
Like other quarantine micro-trends—sourdough starters, for one—the drink grew popular online for being both easy to make and pretty to photograph. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 29 Apr. 2020 In other words, despite the gaping asymmetries of information between the industry and the public, brokerages still shell out big-time to pretty up their BrokerCheck reputations. Gwynn Guilford, Quartz, 3 Mar. 2020 See all Example Sentences for pretty 

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

Word History

Etymology

Adjective, Adverb, Noun, and Verb

Middle English praty, prety, from Old English prættig tricky, from prætt trick; akin to Old Norse prettr trick

First Known Use

Adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adverb

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1616, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1868, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of pretty was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near pretty

Cite this Entry

“Pretty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pretty. Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

pretty

1 of 3 adjective
pret·​ty ˈprit-ē How to pronounce pretty (audio) ˈpu̇rt- How to pronounce pretty (audio)
prettier; prettiest
: delicately or gracefully attractive to the eye or ear
a pretty face
pretty tunes
prettily
ˈprit-ᵊl-ē How to pronounce pretty (audio)
ˈpu̇rt-
adverb
prettiness
ˈprit-ē-nəs
ˈpu̇rt-
noun

pretty

2 of 3 adverb
pret·​ty ˈprit-ē How to pronounce pretty (audio) pərt-ē How to pronounce pretty (audio)
: in some degree : fairly, moderately
pretty big
was pretty much ignored

pretty

3 of 3 noun
 like 1 
plural pretties
: a pretty person or thing

More from Merriam-Webster on pretty

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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