pretty

EnglishEdit

Alternative formsEdit

  • pooty (nonstandard)
  • purdy (nonstandard)
  • pratty (dialectal)
  • prettie, pretie (obsolete)

EtymologyEdit

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From Middle English prety, preti, praty, prati, from Old English prættiġ (tricky, crafty, sly, cunning, wily, astute), from Proto-Germanic *prattugaz (boastful, sly, slick, deceitful, tricky, cunning), corresponding to prat (trick) +‎ -y. Cognate with Dutch prettig (nice, pleasant), dialectal German (East Friesland) prettig (funny), Low German pratzig (arrogant, boastful, haughty), German protzig (showy, ostentatious, swanky, pretentious), Icelandic prettugur (deceitful, tricky). For the sense-development, compare canny, clever, cute.

PronunciationEdit

AdjectiveEdit

pretty (comparative prettier, superlative prettiest)

  1. Cunning; clever, skilful. [from 9th c.]
    • 1877, George Hesekiel and Bayard Taylor, Bismarck his Authentic Biography, p. 380:
      In the end, however, it was a very pretty shot, right across the chasm; killed first fire, and the brute fell headlong into the brook [...].
  2. Pleasant in sight or other senses; attractive, especially of women or children. [from 15th c.]
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 17, The China Governess[1]:
      The face which emerged was not reassuring. […]. He was not a mongol but there was a deficiency of a sort there, and it was not made more pretty by a latter-day hair cut which involved eccentrically long elf-locks and oiled black curls.
    • 2010, Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 4 Feb 2010:
      To escape a violent beating from sailors to whom he has sold a non-functioning car, Jerry takes his stepfamily for a holiday in a trailer park miles away, where, miraculously, young Nick meets a very pretty young woman called Sheeni, played by Portia Doubleday.
  3. Of objects or things: nice-looking, appealing. [from 15th c.]
    • 2010, Lia Leendertz, The Guardian, 13 Feb 2010:
      'Petit Posy' brassicas [...] are a cross between kale and brussels sprouts, and are really very pretty with a mild, sweet taste.
  4. (often pejorative) Fine-looking; only superficially attractive; initially appealing but having little substance; see petty. [from 15th c.]
    • 1962, "New Life for the Liberals", Time, 28 Sep 1962:
      Damned by the Socialists as "traitors to the working class," its leaders were decried by Tories as "faceless peddlers of politics with a pretty little trinket for every taste."
  5. (dated) Moderately large; considerable. [from 15th c.]
    • 1621, Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, I.2.4.vii:
      they flung all the goods in the house out at the windows into the street, or into the sea, as they supposed; thus they continued mad a pretty season [...].
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 1, Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      A chap named Eleazir Kendrick and I had chummed in together the summer afore and built a fish-weir and shanty at Setuckit Point, down Orham way. For a spell we done pretty well. Then there came a reg'lar terror of a sou'wester same as you don't get one summer in a thousand, and blowed the shanty flat and ripped about half of the weir poles out of the sand.
    • 2004, "Because They're Worth it", Time, 26 Jan 04:
      "What did you do to your hair?" The answer could be worth a pretty penny for L'Oreal.
  6. (dated) Excellent, commendable, pleasing; fitting or proper (of actions, thoughts etc.). [from 16th c.]
    • 1815, Jane Austen, Emma, Boston 1867, p. 75:
      Some people are surprised, I believe, that that the eldest was not [named after his father], but Isabella would have him named Henry, which I thought very pretty of her.
    • 1919, Saki, ‘The Oversight’, The Toys of Peace:
      ‘This new fashion of introducing the candidate's children into an election contest is a pretty one,’ said Mrs. Panstreppon; ‘it takes away something from the acerbity of party warfare, and it makes an interesting experience for the children to look back on in after years.’
    • 1926, Ernest Hemingway, The sun also rises‎‎, page 251:
      "Oh, Jake." Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together." Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me. "Yes", I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"
  7. (ironic) Awkward, unpleasant. [from 16th c.]
    • 1931, "Done to a Turn", Time, 26 Jan 1931:
      His sadistic self-torturings finally landed him in a pretty mess: still completely married, practically sure he was in love with Tillie, he made dishonorable proposals of marriage to two other women.

QuotationsEdit

  • (ironic use:)
  • 1995, Les Standiford, Deal to die for, page 123:
    "[...] you can still see where the kid's face is swollen up from this talk: couple of black eyes, lip all busted up, nose over sideways," Driscoll shook his head again, "just a real pretty picture."

AntonymsEdit

Derived termsEdit

TranslationsEdit

AdverbEdit

pretty (not comparable)

  1. Somewhat, fairly, quite; sometimes also (by meiosis) very.
    • 1723, Charles Walker, Memoirs of Sally Salisbury, V:
      By the Sheets you have sent me to peruse, the Account you have given of her Birth and Parentage is pretty exact [...].
    • 1859, Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, I:
      It seems pretty clear that organic beings must be exposed during several generations to the new conditions of life to cause any appreciable amount of variation [...].
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 1, Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      I stumbled along through the young pines and huckleberry bushes. Pretty soon I struck into a sort of path that, I cal'lated, might lead to the road I was hunting for. It twisted and turned, and, the first thing I knew, made a sudden bend around a bunch of bayberry scrub and opened out into a big clear space like a lawn.
    • 2002, Colin Jones, The Great Nation, Penguin 2003, p. 539:
      The Revolutionary decade was a pretty challenging time for business.

Usage notesEdit

  • When particularly stressed, the adverb pretty serves almost to diminish the adjective or adverb that it modifies, by emphasizing that there are greater levels of intensity.

Derived termsEdit

TranslationsEdit

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NounEdit

pretty (plural pretties)

  1. Something that is pretty.
    "We'll stop at the knife store a look at the sharp pretties.
    • 1939, Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf, The Wizard of Oz
      I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!

VerbEdit

pretty (third-person singular simple present pretties, present participle prettying, simple past and past participle prettied)

  1. To make pretty; to beautify
    • 2007, Eric Knight, Lassie Come-Home[2], ISBN 0312371314, page 29:
      He sat on the hearth rug and began prettying the dog's coat.

Derived termsEdit

StatisticsEdit

Last modified on 17 April 2014, at 05:15