ugly duckling


Definition of 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 Consider a few other popular words that were once ugly ducklings. Time, "People Have Invented More Than 200 Gender-Neutral Pronouns. Here's Why 'They' Is Here to Stay," 17 Jan. 2020 Robinson and Nunn might have been viewed as ugly ducklings during the 2018 NBA draft, but that is ancient history now. Joey Yashinsky, Detroit Free Press, "Undrafted NBA players Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn combine for 70 in Miami win vs. Hawks," 11 Dec. 2019 Back then, Grenache was a bit of an ugly duckling, as most people were drinking bigger, heavier wines, and Grenache is more medium bodied. John Kell, Fortune, "How Australian Winemakers Are Distancing Themselves From the Country’s Reputation for Cheap Bottles," 8 Dec. 2019 Sandwiched between the capital, Brussels, and the fairytale city of Bruges, Ghent delights in being the underdog, but the city is far from being the ugly duckling of the trio. National Geographic, "Three by land: Life-changing tales from female travelers," 14 Nov. 2019 By borrowing a few tried and tested tricks, the industry’s ugly ducklings could turn out nicely. Carol Ryan, WSJ, "Beauty Sector’s Uglier Stocks Deserve Second Look," 12 July 2019 Maybe there is a happy ending in store for this ugly duckling hue, after all. Kelsey Kloss, ELLE Decor, "52 Color Swatches To Match The World's Ugliest Color," 16 Aug. 2016 Did his school chums not know about the whole ugly duckling phenomenon? Lauren Le Vine, Redbook, "Morning Headlines: Even Superman Worries About His Weight — and More," 30 May 2013

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ugly duckling.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of ugly duckling

1869, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ugly duckling

The Ugly Duckling, story by Hans Christian Andersen

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ugly duckling

Time Traveler for ugly duckling

Time Traveler

The first known use of ugly duckling was in 1869

See more words from the same year

Statistics for ugly duckling

Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ugly duckling.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for ugly duckling

ugly duckling


English Language Learners Definition of ugly duckling

: a person or thing that is not attractive or successful but that is likely to become attractive or successful in the future

More from Merriam-Webster on ugly duckling

Nglish: Translation of ugly duckling for Spanish Speakers

Comments on ugly duckling

What made you want to look up ugly duckling? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

February 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of probity?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!