American English

Definition of plain adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    (plainer, plainest)
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  1. 1easy to see or understand synonym clear He made it plain that we should leave. She made her annoyance plain. The facts were plain to see. It was a rip-off,plain and simple. Thesaurusclearobvious apparent evident plainThese words all describe something that is easy to see or understand and leaves no doubts or confusion.clear easy to see or understand and leaving no doubts:Her instructions were very clear.obvious easy to see or understand:I don't understand how you missed such an obvious error.apparent [not usually before noun] (somewhat formal) easy to see or understand:It soon became apparent that everything had gone wrong.evident (somewhat formal) easy to see or understand:The orchestra played with evident enjoyment.plain easy to see or understand:He made it very plain that he wanted us to leave.which word?These words all have almost exactly the same meaning. There are slight differences in register and patterns of use. If you make something clear/plain, you do so deliberately because you want people to understand something; if you make something obvious, you usually do it without meaning to:I hope I make myself obvious. Try not to make it so clear/plain.In the expressions clear majority, for obvious reasons, for no apparent reason, and plain to see, none of the other words can be used instead. You can have a clear/an obvious/a plain case of something but not:an evident case of something.Patterns clear/obvious/apparent/evident/plain to somebody/something clear/obvious/apparent/evident/plain that/what/who/how/where/why… to seem/become/make something clear/obvious/apparent/evident/plain perfectly/quite/very clear/obvious/apparent/evident/plain
  2. 2 not trying to trick anyone; honest and direct The plain fact is that nobody really knows. a politician with a reputation for plain speaking a plain, straightforward sort of man
  3. 3 not decorated or complicated; simple a plain but elegant dress plain vanilla The interior of the church was plain and simple. plain yogurt (= without sugar or fruit) compare fancy
  4. 4 without marks or a pattern on it curtains in plain or printed cotton Write on plain paper (= without lines).
  5. 5[only before noun] used to emphasize that something is very ordinary, not special in any way synonym everyday You don't need any special skills for this job, just plain common sense.
  6. 6(especially of a woman) not beautiful or attractive
  7. 7 describing a simple stitch used in knitting
  8. NAmE//ˈpleɪnnəs//
    noun [uncountable]
  9. Thesaurusplainsimple stark bare unequivocalThese words all describe statements, often about something unpleasant, that are very clear, not trying to hide anything, and not using more words than necessary.plain used for talking about a fact that other people may not like to hear; honest and direct in way that other people may not like:The plain truth is that nobody really knows.simple [only before noun] used for talking about a fact that other people may not like to hear; very obvious and not complicated by anything else:The simple facts of the case proved that she was wrong.plain or simple?When it is being used to emphasize facts that other people may not like to hear, plain is usually used in the expression the plain fact/truth is that…Simple can be used in this way too, but it can also be used in a wider variety of structures and collocations (such as reason and matter):The problem was due to the simple fact that… The problem was due to the plain fact that… for the plain reason that…Expressions with simple often suggest impatience with other people's behavior.stark (somewhat formal) used for describing an unpleasant fact or difference that is very obvious:He had to face the stark reality of the situation. The simple/plain truth may be something that some people do not want to hear, but it may be good for them to hear it anyway. The stark truth is something particularly unpleasant and painful to accept.bare [only before noun] the most basic or simple, with nothing extra:She gave me only a bare outline of the plan.unequivocal (formal) expressing your opinion or intention very clearly and firmly:The reply was an unequivocal “no.”Patterns the plain/simple/stark/bare/unequivocal truth a(n) plain/simple/stark/unequivocal fact/statement a(n) plain/simple/unequivocal answer
    in plain English
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    simply and clearly expressed, without using technical language a document written in plain English If you could put it in plain English I might be able to understand.
    in plain sight/view
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    in a place that is very obvious; not hidden His laptop was stolen when he left it in plain sight in his car.
    (as) plain as the nose on your face
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    very obvious
    plain old (somebody/something)
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    not special or complicated Avoid antibiotics and try plain old soap and water.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: plain