An ugly duckling – English Idiom – Online English Lessons

An ugly duckling is a plain child who grows into a beautiful woman.

This idiom has its origin in the fairy tale The Ugly Duckling by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson (1805-75).

The ugly duckling in Hans Anderson’s story is teased mercilessly by neighbouring birds because it is unattractive, but at the end of the story it grows into a beautiful swan.

Examples of use:

1. She’s a beautiful woman, but we knew her when she was a girl and a real ugly duckling.

2. Alice’s daughter is a bit of an ugly duckling now but, like her mother, she will grow to be a very attractive woman.

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