See also: Pretty


Alternative formsEdit


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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), Low German prettig (funny), Icelandic prettugur (deceitful, tricky). For the semantic development, compare canny, clever, cute.


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈpɹɪti/
  • (US, dialectal) IPA(key): /ˈpɝti/
  • (US, rare) IPA(key): /ˈpɹʊti/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪti


pretty (comparative prettier, superlative prettiest)

  1. Pleasant to the sight or other senses; attractive, especially of women or children. [from 15th c.]
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, chapter 17, in 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 February 4, Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:
      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.
  2. Of objects or things: nice-looking, appealing. [from 15th c.]
    • 2010 February 13, Lia Leendertz, The Guardian:
      'Petit Posy' brassicas [] are a cross between kale and brussels sprouts, and are really very pretty with a mild, sweet taste.
  3. (often derogatory) Fine-looking; only superficially attractive; initially appealing but having little substance; see petty. [from 15th c.]
    • 1962 September 28, “New Life for the Liberals”, in Time:
      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."
  4. Cunning; clever, skilful. [from 9th c.]
    • 1877, George Hesekiel and Bayard Taylor, Bismarck his Authentic Biography, page 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 [] .
  5. (dated) Moderately large; considerable. [from 15th c.]
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, →OCLC, partition I, section 2, member 4, subsection 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 […].
    • 2004 January 26, “Because They're Worth it”, in Time:
      "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 December (indicated as 1816), [Jane Austen], Emma: [], volume (please specify |volume=I, II or III), London: [] [Charles Roworth and James Moyes] for John Murray, →OCLC:
      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.]
    • 1839, The Cottager's Monthly Visitor, volume 19, page 270:
      "Nay, not I; it is a pretty thing to expect me to wash them; you may take them back again, and say, as Sally had them before, she may wash them now, for me; I am not going to be 'Jack at a pinch,' I can tell you."
    • 1877, Anna Sewell, Black Beauty:
      A pretty thing it would be if a man of business had to examine every cab-horse before he hired it
    • 1931 January 26, “Done to a Turn”, in Time:
      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.
    • 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."


Derived termsEdit


  • Japanese: プリティー (puritī), プリティ (puriti), プリチー (purichī)


Further readingEdit


pretty (not comparable)

  1. Somewhat, fairly, quite; sometimes also (by meiosis) very.
  2. (dialect) Prettily, in a pretty manner.
    • 1861, George Eliot, Silas Marner, London: Penguin Books, published 1967, page 139:
      'The boy sings pretty, don't he, Master Marner?'

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


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


pretty (plural pretties)

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


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, page 29:
      He sat on the hearth rug and began prettying the dog's coat.

Derived termsEdit