ugly duckling


: one that appears very unpromising but often has great potential

Examples of ugly duckling in a Sentence

The house is an ugly duckling, but it has a lot of potential.
Recent Examples on the Web Kale At some point in recent history, kale went from ugly duckling to prom queen and is now so trendy it may be officially headed for a backlash. Treehugger Editors, Treehugger, 7 Sep. 2023 There was no ‘ugly duckling’ period. Christopher Arnott,, 14 Feb. 2022 And keep in mind the ugly duckling rule too. Paige Stables, Allure, 25 May 2021 In the vase, the ugly duckling turns into a swan. Washington Post, 3 Mar. 2021 In the popular imagination, reinvention requires some kind of abrupt transformation or sudden epiphany, a metamorphosis from ugly duckling to swan. Joanne Lipman, WSJ, 10 Mar. 2023 The Panthers had been the division’s ugly duckling up until this week, but their 21-3 win against the Bucs goes to show what their defense can do when Brian Burns, Derrick Brown and Shaq Thompson are all on their game. Derrik Klassen, New York Times, 23 Oct. 2022 This is a Bombardier Iltis, an ugly duckling built in Quebec in the mid-1980s. Brendan McAleer, Car and Driver, 2 Oct. 2022 Now, like the ugly duckling that became a swan, the nearly $2 trillion crypto market—with all of its warts—seems to be undergoing a glow-up in the eyes of some of the world's most powerful financial institutions. Declan Harty, Fortune, 7 Apr. 2022 See More

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

Word History


The Ugly Duckling, story by Hans Christian Andersen

First Known Use

1869, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ugly duckling was in 1869

Dictionary Entries Near ugly duckling

Cite this Entry

“Ugly duckling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition

ugly duckling

: a person or thing that seems unpromising but later develops great beauty, talent, or worth

More from Merriam-Webster on ugly duckling

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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