Meaning of “plain” in the English Dictionary

"plain" in British English

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uk /pleɪn/ us /pleɪn/

plain adjective (WITH NOTHING ADDED)

B1 not decorated in any way; with nothing added:

She wore a plain black dress.
We've chosen a plain carpet (= one without a pattern) and patterned curtains.
He prefers plain food - nothing too fancy.
We're having plain blue walls in the dining room.
a plain style of architecture
plain yogurt (= with no added fruit or sugar)
plain paper

paper that has no lines on it:

a letter written on plain paper

More examples

  • a plain gold ring with no ornamentation
  • Their website is fairly plain, but very easy to navigate.
  • She was dressed very soberly in a plain grey suit.
  • Do you prefer plain or striped shirts?
  • I want a plain black jumper with no fancy trimmings.
noun [ U ] uk /ˈpleɪn.nəs/ us /ˈpleɪn.nəs/


uk /pleɪn/ us /pleɪn/


uk /pleɪn/ us /pleɪn/ informal

(Definition of “plain” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"plain" in American English

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plainadjective [ -er/-est only ]

us /pleɪn/

plain adjective [ -er/-est only ] (WITH NOTHING ADDED)

not decorated in any way; with nothing added:

The catalog was sent in a plain brown envelope.
The food is pretty plain (= prepared simply and without strong flavors), but there’s lots of it.

plain adjective [ -er/-est only ] (CLEAR)

obvious, or clear and easy to see or understand; not complicated:

A group of wild horses was in plain view (= We could see them clearly).
Why can’t they write these instructions in plain English?

plain adjective [ -er/-est only ] (NOT ATTRACTIVE)

(esp. of a woman or girl) not attractive:

She always thought of herself as plain.
adverb [ not gradable ] us /pleɪn/


It was just plain stupid to give him your telephone number.

plainnoun [ C usually pl ]

us /pleɪn/

plain noun [ C usually pl ] (LAND)

earth science a large area of flat land at low elevation (= height above the surface of the earth):

A number of paintings by Western artists show Indian settlements in the plains.

(Definition of “plain” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)