Printable Version
Pronunciation: hom-lee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Plain, simple, ordinary, not particularly good-looking, as a homely boy or couch. 2. Pertaining to the home and home life, as homely activities or skills.

Notes: No, this word doesn't mean "like a home" or "resembling a home". Its meaning has somehow slipped off course to mean "plain, ordinary". Homely is a regular adjective, which means it has a suffixed comparative homelier and superlative homeliest. The noun is homeliness, so don't forget to change the final Y to an I (i).

In Play: Generally, we reserve this word to refer to plain, ordinary things: "Rodney was a man with a homely face for which his thick wallet compensated nicely." We shouldn't, though, for the older meaning is still legitimate and the only adjective available for home: "Buster isn't one of your homely dogs: he loves to roam the neighborhood and beyond for days on end."

Word History: At the beginning of the industrial age, manufacturers prided themselves in the fact that factory-made goods were better than those made at home. Homely things came to be thought of as less than perfect, the origin of the first sense of homely. The word for home in Old English was ham "home, hometown", which explains why a small town (rather than a small pig's haunch) is called a hamlet today. German Heim, Swedish hem, and Danish hjem are all cousins. Lithuanian kaimas "village" and cemetery, from Greek koimeterion "sleeping place, dormitory" also come from the same original root, which meant "to lie down, rest". (Thank you, Peter Evans, of somewhere in Canada, for suggesting this interesting if homely Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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