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plain Meaning, Definition & Usage

  1. noun extensive tract of level open land
    champaign; field.
    • they emerged from the woods onto a vast open plain
    • he longed for the fields of his youth
  2. noun a basic knitting stitch
    plain stitch; knit; knit stitch.
  3. verb express complaints, discontent, displeasure, or unhappiness
    kvetch; sound off; kick; complain; quetch.
    • My mother complains all day
    • She has a lot to kick about
  4. adjective satellite clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
    evident; patent; apparent; unmistakable; manifest.
    • the effects of the drought are apparent to anyone who sees the parched fields
    • evident hostility
    • manifest disapproval
    • patent advantages
    • made his meaning plain
    • it is plain that he is no reactionary
    • in plain view
  5. adjective not elaborate or elaborated; simple
    • plain food
    • stuck to the plain facts
    • a plain blue suit
    • a plain rectangular brick building
  6. adjective lacking patterns especially in color
  7. adjective satellite not mixed with extraneous elements
    sheer; unmingled; unmixed.
    • plain water
    • sheer wine
    • not an unmixed blessing
  8. adjective satellite free from any effort to soften to disguise
    • the plain and unvarnished truth
    • the unvarnished candor of old people and children
  9. adjective satellite lacking embellishment or ornamentation
    spare; unornamented; bare; unembellished.
    • a plain hair style
    • unembellished white walls
    • functional architecture featuring stark unornamented concrete
  10. adjective satellite lacking in physical beauty or proportion
    • a homely child
    • several of the buildings were downright homely
    • a plain girl with a freckled face
  11. adverb unmistakably (`plain' is often used informally for `plainly')
    patently; plainly; obviously; manifestly; apparently; evidently.
    • the answer is obviously wrong
    • she was in bed and evidently in great pain
    • he was manifestly too important to leave off the guest list
    • it is all patently nonsense
    • she has apparently been living here for some time
    • I thought he owned the property, but apparently not
    • You are plainly wrong
    • he is plain stubborn

Plain intransitive verb
OE. playne, pleyne, fr. F. plaindre. See Plaint.
  1. To lament; to bewail; to complain. Archaic & Poetic Milton.
    We with piteous heart unto you pleyne. Chaucer.
Plain transitive verb
  1. To lament; to mourn over; as, to plain a loss. Archaic & Poetic Sir J. Harrington.
Plain adjective
F., level, flat, fr. L. planus, perhaps akin to E. floor. Cf. Llano, Piano, Plan, Plane level, a level surface.
comparative Plainer ; superlative Plainest
  1. Without elevations or depressions; flat; level; smooth; even. See Plane.
    The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. Isa. xl. 4.
  2. Open; clear; unencumbered; equal; fair.
    Our troops beat an army in plain fight. Felton.
  3. Not intricate or difficult; evident; manifest; obvious; clear; unmistakable. "'T is a plain case." Shak.
  4. (a) Void of extraneous beauty or ornament; without conspicious embellishment; not rich; simple. (b) Not highly cultivated; unsophisticated; free from show or pretension; simple; natural; homely; common. "Plain yet pious Christians." Hammond. "The plain people." A. Lincoln. (c) Free from affectation or disguise; candid; sincere; artless; honest; frank. "An honest mind, and plain." Shak. (d) Not luxurious; not highly seasoned; simple; as, plain food. (e) Without beauty; not handsome; homely; as, a plain woman. (f) Not variegated, dyed, or figured; as, plain muslin. (g) Not much varied by modulations; as, a plain tune. Syn. -- Level; flat; smooth; open; artless; unaffected; undisguised; frank; sincere; honest; candid; ingenuous; unembellished; downright; blunt; clear; simple; distinct; manifest; obvious; apparent. See Manifest.
Plain adverb
  1. In a plain manner; plainly. "To speak short and pleyn." Chaucer. "To tell you plain." Shak.
Plain noun
Cf. OF. plaigne, F. plaine. See Plain, a.
  1. Level land; usually, an open field or a broad stretch of land with an even surface, or a surface little varied by inequalities; as, the plain of Jordan; the American plains, or prairies.
    Descending fro the mountain into playn. Chaucer.
    Him the Ammonite Worshiped in Rabba and her watery plain. Milton.
  2. A field of battle. Obs. Arbuthnot.
    Lead forth my soldiers to the plain. Shak.
Plain transitive verb
Cf. Plane, v.
imperfect & past participle Plained ; present participle & verbal noun Plaining
  1. To plane or level; to make plain or even on the surface. R.
    We would rake Europe rather, plain the East. Wither.
  2. To make plain or manifest; to explain.
    What's dumb in show, I'll plain in speech. Shak.

Webster 1913