Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Free from obstructions; open; clear: in plain view.
  • adj. Obvious to the mind; evident: make one's intention plain. See Synonyms at apparent.
  • adj. Not elaborate or complicated; simple: plain food.
  • adj. Straightforward; frank or candid: plain talk.
  • adj. Not mixed with other substances; pure: plain water.
  • adj. Common in rank or station; average; ordinary: a plain man.
  • adj. Not pretentious; unaffected.
  • adj. Marked by little or no ornamentation or decoration.
  • adj. Not dyed, twilled, or patterned: a plain fabric.
  • adj. Lacking beauty or distinction: a plain face.
  • adj. Sheer; utter; unqualified: plain stupidity.
  • adj. Archaic Having no visible elevation or depression; flat; level.
  • n. An extensive, level, usually treeless area of land.
  • n. A broad level expanse, as a part of the sea floor or a lunar mare.
  • n. Something free of ornamentation or extraneous matter.
  • adv. Informal Clearly; simply: plain stubborn.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adv. Simply
  • n. An expanse of land with relatively low relief.
  • n. A plane.
  • v. To plane or level; to make plain or even on the surface.
  • v. To make plain or manifest; to explain.
  • v. To lament, bewail.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Without elevations or depressions; flat; level; smooth; even. See plane.
  • adj. Open; clear; unencumbered; equal; fair.
  • adj. Not intricate or difficult; evident; manifest; obvious; clear; unmistakable.
  • adj.
  • adj. Void of extraneous beauty or ornament; without conspicious embellishment; not rich; simple.
  • adj. Not highly cultivated; unsophisticated; free from show or pretension; simple; natural; homely; common.
  • adj. Free from affectation or disguise; candid; sincere; artless; honest; frank.
  • adj. Not luxurious; not highly seasoned; simple.
  • adj. Without beauty; not handsome; homely.
  • adj. Not variegated, dyed, or figured.
  • adj. Not much varied by modulations.
  • adv. In a plain manner; plainly.
  • n. Level land; usually, an open field or a broad stretch of land with an even surface, or a surface little varied by inequalities
  • n. A field of battle.
  • intransitive v. To lament; to bewail; to complain.
  • transitive v. To lament; to mourn over.
  • transitive v. To plane or level; to make plain or even on the surface.
  • transitive v. To make plain or manifest; to explain.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Flat; level: smooth; even; free from elevations and depressions: as, a plain surface or country.
  • Open; unobstructed by intervening barriers or defenses.
  • Easy; free from intricacies or difficulties: as, plain exercises in shorthand.
  • Undisguised; frank; sincere; unreserved.
  • Clear; evident; manifest; easily perceived or understood: as, to make one's meaning plain; it was plain he was offended.
  • Unqualified: undisguised; unmistakable; sheer; downright; absolute.
  • Without a figured pattern; unornamented with decorative patterns or designs; also, when applied to fabrics, untwilled or uncolored: as. plain black cloth; plain muslin.
  • Void of ornament or bright color; without embellishment; simple; unadorned.
  • Without beauty; homely: as, she is plain, but clever.
  • Artless; simple; unlearned; without artifice or affectation; unsophisticated.
  • Not highly seasoned; not rich; not luxuriously dressed: as, a plain diet.
  • Incomplex; simple.
  • In card-playing, not trumps; lay: as, a plain card; a plain suit.
  • Whole-colored; not variegated: as, plain white eggs.
  • Smooth; unstriate, as muscular fiber.
  • Embroidery in the same color as the ground.
  • Clear, Evident, etc. (see manifest), distinct, patent, unmistakable, unequivocal, unambiguous, explicit, intelligible.
  • Unvarnished, unem-bellished.
  • n. An extent of level, or nearly level, land; a region not noticeably diversified with mountains, hills, or valleys.
  • n. A field; especially, a field of battle.
  • n. An open space surrounded by houses: as, St. Mary's Plain; the Theater Plain, in Norwich.
  • In a plain manner; plainly; clearly; openly; frankly; bluntly.
  • To make plain, level, or even; smooth; clear.
  • To make plain or clear; explain.
  • To lament; wail; mourn.
  • To whinny: said of a horse.
  • To lament; bewail; bemoan; mourn over.
  • In old music, said of certain graces or embellishments, like the beat, backfall, etc., when without extension by a shake: opposed to shaked. Also called smooth.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. not mixed with extraneous elements
  • n. extensive tract of level open land
  • adj. not elaborate or elaborated; simple
  • adj. lacking embellishment or ornamentation
  • adj. free from any effort to soften to disguise
  • adj. clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
  • v. express complaints, discontent, displeasure, or unhappiness
  • adv. unmistakably (`plain' is often used informally for `plainly')
  • adj. lacking in physical beauty or proportion
  • adj. lacking patterns especially in color
  • n. a basic knitting stitch

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old French, from Latin plānus.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Anglo-Norman pleyn, playn, Middle French plain, plein, from Latin plānus ("flat, even, level, plain"). (Wiktionary)
From Anglo-Norman plainer, pleiner, variant of Anglo-Norman and Old French pleindre, plaindre, from Latin plangere, present active infinitive of plangō. (Wiktionary)
From Old French plain, from Latin plānum ("level ground, a plain"), neuter substantive from plānus ("level, even, flat"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I do for a plain one, therefore I like the _plain ones best_, and I hope that our "good brother Burch's" prophecy, that "the days of 'fancy locomotives' will return," will never be fulfilled until after I go out of the business.

    Scientific American Supplement, No. 358, November 11, 1882

  • They live what they call plain lives, of course, as you well know, not using electricity.

    CNN Transcript Feb 21, 2006

  • WOODRUFF: And just as important, he is hoping to win over you, the voters in the United States, with what he calls plain-spoken words about his priorities.

    CNN Transcript - Special Event: President Bush Addresses Congress and the Democrats Respond - February 27, 2001

  • Throughout the episode, however, Robison expressed difficulty understanding why he should be penalized for preaching what he called the plain message of the Bible: "I did not attack an individual or any group, but rather a life-style condemned by the Bible."

    Prime Time Preachers: The Rising Power of Televangelism; with an Introduction by T George Harris

  • Possibly, you don't give other people credit for unselfish motives; you are too suspicious; and what you call plain talk may seem impertinence to others -- don't you think?

    'Firebrand' Trevison

  • Hence it is necessary for us to realise that these rude and simple worshippers, of all the different forms of worship, really would be bewildered by the ritual dances and elaborate ceremonial antics of John Bull, as by the superstitious forms and almost supernatural incantations of most of what we call plain English.

    The New Jerusalem

  • Homer's heaven was an elysium which he describes as a plain at the end of the earth or beneath, with no snow nor rainfall, and the sun never goes down, and Rhadamanthus, the justest of men, rules.

    New Tabernacle Sermons

  • It's what you call plain cooking; and bless us all, dinner in the middle of the day, and the children at table.

    Phoebe, Junior

  • But, Raoul, let us come down to what I call plain reason.

    Vautrin

  • That is what I call plain speaking on the part of the old Roman, Mr. Fairford.

    Redgauntlet

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