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Ugly vs. Pretty: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 13, 2023
"Ugly" refers to something unpleasant or unattractive in appearance, while "pretty" denotes something pleasing and attractive, often delicately or daintily so.

Key Differences

Ugly describes an appearance or aspect deemed unattractive, displeasing to the eye. Pretty, in contrast, is used to describe something visually appealing, often with a sense of delicacy or subtlety.
The term ugly often carries negative connotations, implying a lack of aesthetic appeal or harmony. Pretty, conversely, conveys a positive impression, suggesting charm and beauty, often in a delicate or refined way.
Ugly can be subjective, varying greatly according to personal taste and cultural standards. Similarly, what is considered pretty can also vary widely across different cultures and individual preferences.
In usage, ugly can describe not only physical appearance but also situations or behaviors deemed morally reprehensible or offensive. Pretty, while primarily used in the context of physical appearance, can also describe something done in a skillful or pleasing manner.
Ugly is often used in a broader context, whereas pretty is typically reserved for describing things that are aesthetically pleasing in a gentle or refined manner.

Comparison Chart


Unpleasant or unattractive in appearance
Pleasing and attractive, often delicately so


Generally negative
Generally positive


Varies by personal and cultural standards
Also varies by personal and cultural preferences


Can describe appearance, behavior, or situations
Primarily used for physical appearance, sometimes for skillful actions


Broader, not limited to physical attributes
Often associated with gentleness or refinement in appearance

Ugly and Pretty Definitions


Unpleasant to look at; not visually appealing.
The building's design was considered ugly.


Attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful.
She wore a pretty dress to the party.


Morally offensive or repulsive.
He was known for his ugly behavior.


Used to signify a moderate degree of something.
The task was pretty difficult.


Unattractive or displeasing in nature.
The landscape was marred by ugly industrial structures.


Appealing in a delicate or graceful way.
The decorations made the room look pretty.


Offensive to the senses.
The room was filled with an ugly smell.


Daintily attractive.
The little cottage had a pretty appearance.


Causing discomfort or displeasure.
The argument turned ugly quickly.


Pleasing to the eye or mind aesthetically.
The garden looked pretty in the springtime.


Displeasing to the eye; unsightly.


Pleasing or attractive in a graceful or delicate way.


Repulsive or offensive; objectionable
An ugly remark.


Clever; adroit
A pretty maneuver.


Chiefly Southern US Rude
Don't be ugly with me.


Very bad; terrible
In a pretty predicament.
A situation that has reached a pretty pass.


Can something be both ugly and pretty?

Yes, depending on individual perception and context.

Is beauty the opposite of ugly?

Yes, beauty is often considered the opposite of ugly.

Is pretty always about physical appearance?

Mostly, but it can also refer to skillful or pleasing actions.

Can ugly have a positive connotation?

Rarely, as it generally implies something negative.

Can pretty be used to describe men?

Yes, though it's more commonly used for women and objects.

Is the perception of ugly subjective?

Yes, what is considered ugly can vary greatly among individuals.

Does the term ugly apply to behavior?

Yes, it can describe morally reprehensible or offensive behavior.

Can landscapes or art be described as pretty?

Yes, landscapes and art can be described as pretty.

Can pretty be used in a non-literal sense?

Yes, it's sometimes used to express a moderate degree of something.

Can pretty imply more than physical beauty?

Sometimes, it can imply charm or grace beyond physical appearance.

Does cultural background affect what is considered ugly?

Yes, cultural standards play a significant role in defining ugliness.

Are ugly and pretty universally understood?

While widely recognized, interpretations can vary across cultures.

Can the environment be ugly?

Yes, environments can be described as ugly based on aesthetic standards.

Can food be described as pretty?

Yes, particularly when it's aesthetically presented.

Are there cultural differences in what is considered pretty?

Yes, cultural influences significantly shape perceptions of prettiness.

Is pretty a compliment?

Generally, it's used as a mild compliment.

Can music or sound be ugly?

Yes, music or sounds can be considered ugly if they are unpleasant to hear.

Can objects be pretty?

Yes, objects can be described as pretty.

Is ugly an absolute term?

No, it's often subjective and open to interpretation.

Does ugly always mean physically unattractive?

Mostly, but it can also refer to non-physical attributes.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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