ugly duckling definition by Webster's New World
Webster's New World College Dictionary Copyright © 2010 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
a very plain child or unpromising thing that in time becomes or could become beautiful, admirable, important, etc.
Origin: from a story by Hans Christian Andersen about a supposed ugly duckling that turns out to be a swan
ugly duckling definition by American Heritage Dictionary
nounThe American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
One that is considered ugly or unpromising at first but has the potential of becoming beautiful or admirable in maturity.
Origin: After The Ugly Duckling, a story by Hans Christian Andersen.
ugly duckling - Phrases/Idioms
A homely or unpromising individual who grows into an attractive or talented person, as in She was the family ugly duckling but blossomed in her twenties. This term alludes to Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale about a cygnet hatched with ducklings that is despised for its clumsiness until it grows up into a beautiful swan. The tale was first translated into English in 1846, and the term was used figuratively by 1871.