Meaning of PLAIN in English


I. plain 1 S2 W3 /pleɪn/ BrE AmE adjective

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: Latin planus 'flat, level, clear' ]

1 . CLEAR very clear, and easy to understand or recognize SYN obvious

it is plain (that)

It was plain that Giles was not going to agree.

The advantages were plain to see.

You have made your feelings plain enough.

Let me make it plain (=state it clearly) . We do not want you here.

make yourself plain (=make what you are saying clear)

If you do that again you will be severely punished. Do I make myself plain?

as plain as day/the nose on your face (=very clear)

2 . in plain English/language in clear and simple words, without using technical language:

The document, written in plain English, tells you about your new policy.

3 . SIMPLE without anything added or without decoration SYN simple :

a plain white blouse

a plain wooden table

plain yoghurt

a plain gold wedding ring

Your essay should be written on plain paper (=paper with no lines on it) .

4 . HONEST showing clearly and honestly what is true or what you think about something SYN frank , candid :

Let’s have some plain, truthful answers.

I don’t know, and that’s the plain truth.

The plain fact is people still buy books.

5 . EMPHASIS [only before noun] spoken used to emphasize that a particular type of behaviour, attitude etc is involved, usually a bad one:

His motive was plain greed.

When you told him his house was too cold that was just plain bad manners.

6 . NOT BEAUTIFUL not beautiful or attractive – often used because you want to avoid saying this directly:

Mrs Cookson was a rather plain woman.

plain Jane (=used to talk about a woman who is not beautiful)

7 . in plain clothes police officers in plain clothes are not wearing uniform ⇨ ↑ plain-clothes

8 . (just) plain Mr/Mrs etc spoken used to show that someone does not have or use a special title:

I don’t call him Uncle – just plain Bill.

9 . be plain sailing to be very easy to do or achieve:

If you can answer the first question, the rest of the test should be plain sailing.

10 . in plain sight American English if something is in plain sight, it is easy to see or notice, especially when it should be hidden:

Don’t leave your valuables in plain sight.

—plainness noun [uncountable]

• • •


▪ plain without anything added, or without decoration:

a plain shirt


The fireplace was plain apart from a small design at the top.

▪ simple not having a lot of decoration or unnecessary things, but attractive:

She was wearing a simple black dress.


The accommodation is simple but clean.

▪ austere very plain and with very little decoration, or very little in it – used about a room or place that does not make you feel welcome:

He dreaded having dinner in that austere dining room.


The building was grey and a little austere.


the austere beauty and grandeur of mountain scenery

▪ spartan plain and without anything that would make life easier or more comfortable – used especially about rooms, conditions, or ways of living:

Her apartment is quite spartan.


They had a very spartan life.

▪ stark very plain in a surprising way, with very little colour or decoration – used about rooms and places:

Sam sat looking at the stark white walls.


It is a landscape of stark beauty.

▪ bare empty, or not covered by any decorations:

Her office seemed very bare now that her desk had gone.


He was tired of looking at the bare walls of his prison cell.

II. plain 2 BrE AmE noun

1 . ( also plains ) [countable] a large area of flat dry land ⇨ prairie :

The grassy plain gave way to an extensive swamp.

the vast plains of central China

2 . [uncountable] the ordinary stitch in ↑ knitting

• • •


■ adjectives

▪ the open plain(s)

On the open plains of east Africa are zebras, antelopes, and gazelles.

▪ the vast/great plain(s)

Beyond lay the vast plains of the Central Valley.

▪ a flat plain

Here a group of small hills rises unexpectedly out of the flat plain.

▪ a grassy plain

The village is situated on the high grassy plains at the foot of the Sierra.

▪ a fertile plain

The rains washed soil down to create fertile plains.

III. plain 3 BrE AmE adverb

informal used to emphasize an adjective, usually one referring to a bad quality:

It’s just plain crazy to spend all your pay as soon as you get it.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.