Definition of plain adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//pleɪn//
    ; NAmE NAmE//pleɪn//
    (plainer, plainest) Attractiveness, Honest, Interior décor
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  1. 1  easy 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. Synonymsclearobvious 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:It was quite clear to me that she was lying.obvious easy to see or understand:It’s obvious from what he said that something is wrong.apparent [not usually before noun] (rather formal) easy to see or understand:It was apparent from her face that she was really upset.evident (rather 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 (especially North American English) a plain, straightforward sort of man Synonymsplainsimple stark bare unequivocal These 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 fact 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 truth is that we just can’t afford it.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… It’s a plain matter of… Expressions with simple often suggest impatience with other people’s behaviour.stark (rather formal) used for describing an unpleasant fact or difference that is very obvious:The stark truth is that there is not enough money left. 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 has no good side to it at all.bare [only before noun] the most basic or simple, with nothing extra:She gave me only the bare facts of the case.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/​bare/​unequivocal fact/​statement a(n) plain/​simple/​unequivocal answer See related entries: Honest
  3. 3  not decorated or complicated; simple a plain but elegant dress plain food The interior of the church was plain and simple. plain yogurt (= without sugar or fruit) compare fancy See related entries: Interior décor
  4. 4  without marks or a pattern on it covers 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 See related entries: Attractiveness
  7. 7describing a simple stitch used in knitting
  8. Word Origin Middle English: from Old French plain, from Latin planus, from a base meaning ‘flat’.Extra examples It is all very plain to me. She looked very plain and dowdy. The dress was absolutely plain, but quite stunning. The food was fairly plain, but well cooked. They made it plain that they were against the idea. Within weeks, it became perfectly plain that we were in the grip of a tyrant. a plain white shirt a rather plain woman As a child she was rather plain. Do you want plain or lined paper? He made it very plain that he wanted us to leave. He prided himself on being a plain, honest man with no nonsense about him. He was a plain, straightforward sort of man. He’s a politician with a reputation for plain speaking. Her intentions were plain enough. I prefer plain, simple things. It doesn’t require special skills, just plain common sense. It was plain to us that they had left fairly recently. Let’s be plain about this: we will need to make some difficult choices. Patterned carpet shows the dirt less than a plain colour. Teachers should encourage students to write in plain English. The facts were plain to see. The plain fact is that nobody really knows. The situation thrives on half-truths and plain ignorance. a range of plain and printed linens plain food/​cooking plain yogurtIdioms
    be plain sailing(North American English be clear/smooth sailing)
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    to be simple and free from trouble
    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.
    (as) plain as a pikestaff, (as) plain as day, (as) plain as the nose on your face
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    very obvious
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: plain