If writing for an international audience, you should be aware (or beware) that the word has strikingly different connotations between America and elsewhere. In Britain and most of its former dominions homely means comfortable and appealing, having the warm and familiar qualities associated with a home. In America, for obscure reasons, it has long signified something that is unattractive, particularly in respect to the human face. If the audience is international and confusion likely to follow, clearly a more neutral term is advised. In any case, to describe someone as homely, in the American sense, is inescapably subjective, generally uncharitable, and may cause needless hurt.

Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors. 2013.

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  • Homely — Home ly, a. [Compar. {Homelier}; superl. {Homeliest}.] [From {Home}, n.] 1. Belonging to, or having the characteristics of, home; domestic; familiar; intimate. [Archaic] [1913 Webster] With all these men I was right homely, and communed with,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • homely — The connotations of this word as applied to a person (usually a woman) are favourable in BrE, in which it means ‘simple, unpretentious’ and disparaging in AmE, in which it means ‘unattractive, dowdy’: • Homely and welcoming, owners Doug and Karen …   Modern English usage

  • Homely — Home ly, adv. Plainly; rudely; coarsely; as, homely dressed. [R.] Spenser. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • homely — [adj1] ordinary, comfortable comfy, cozy, domestic, everyday, familiar, friendly, homelike, homespun, homey, inelaborate, informal, modest, natural, plain, simple, snug, unaffected, unassuming, unostentatious, unpretentious, welcoming; concepts… …   New thesaurus

  • homely — [hōm′lē] adj. homelier, homeliest [ME homli] 1. Obs. a) of the home; domestic b) HOMELIKE 2. a) characteristic of or suitable for home or home life; simple and unpretentious or plain and everyday …   English World dictionary

  • homely — index familiar (customary), inelegant, nondescript, ordinary Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • homely — (adj.) late 14c., of or belonging to home or household, domestic, from M.E. hom home (see HOME (Cf. home) (n.)) + LY (Cf. ly) (2). Sense of plain, unadorned, simple is late 14c., and extension to having a plain appearance, ugly, crude took place… …   Etymology dictionary

  • homely — *plain, simple, unpretentious Analogous words: *familiar, intimate, close: *usual, wonted, customary, habitual: ill favored, *ugly Antonyms: comely, bonny …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • homely — ► ADJECTIVE (homelier, homeliest) 1) Brit. simple but comfortable. 2) unsophisticated. 3) N. Amer. unattractive. DERIVATIVES homeliness noun …   English terms dictionary

  • homely — [[t]ho͟ʊmli[/t]] 1) ADJ GRADED (approval) If you describe a room or house as homely, you like it because you feel comfortable and relaxed there. [mainly BRIT] I wanted a homely room but I wanted it to look smart, too... We try and provide a very… …   English dictionary

  • homely — homeliness, n. /hohm lee/, adj., homelier, homeliest. 1. lacking in physical attractiveness; not beautiful; unattractive: a homely child. 2. not having elegance, refinement, or cultivation. 3. proper or suited to the home or to ordinary domestic… …   Universalium

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