Pretty vs. Lovely

I’m going to throw out a caveat right up front: Being a guy, I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. There! You’ve been warned.

Guys like pretty, no doubt about it, at least when it comes to their women. But then, women like their guys handsome, too. Yet, from what I have seen, women are a lot more likely to be attracted to a man who isn’t handsome than a man is to be attracted to a woman who isn’t pretty.

I mean, even ugly guys want their women to be pretty. It’s a law of nature. I don’t know about ugly women because I don’t know any; they’re pretty much an endangered species. And any woman who says she’s ugly doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

In my book, pretty is as pretty does. But, then, that understanding comes with age, and I have plenty of that.

Lovely, on the other hand, isn’t a word that guys feel overly comfortable using, especially when it comes to women. Somehow, the word lovely in a woman is less desirable than her being pretty. It’s like a step down in the desirability factor. But then, I’m not even sure most men even know what the word lovely means.

So, we’re going to dive right into that. Enter my 1982 Webster’s NewWorld Dictionary, Second Concise Edition.

Pretty is derived from the Old English word, prætig, meaning crafty. Prætig was evidently derived from the Old English word, prætt, which means a trick.

So, right off the bat, being pretty is standing on a pretty shaky foundation. Nevertheless, somewhere between the Old English and modern usage, the word pretty has lost its negative connotation.

In 1982 pretty meant “pleasing or attractive, especially in a light, dainty, or graceful way.”

Today, that definition would likely be considered politically incorrect and sexist. In fact, in today’s society, everything, including being pretty, is sexy. Even cars and houses are sexy, for heaven’s sake. I mean, come on; cars and houses aren’t sexy, they’re cars and houses. Sheesh! Madison Avenue strikes again.

Now, let’s go on to the word lovely.

Lovely didn’t display a derivative root, but likely came via the word, love, which was derived from the Old English word, lufu, which was as far as the dictionary took it. So, whatever lufu meant, we may assume that lovely is a descendent from that.

In 1982, lovely meant, “having qualities that inspire love, admiration, etc.; specifically, a) beautiful b) morally or spiritually attractive c [colloquially] highly enjoyable,” as in “a lovely party,” with a definite slurring of the words l-uuuv-ely p-aaar-tay.

Here’s how I see it: The difference between being pretty and being lovely is the difference between physical appearance only and overall personality, but also including the physical.

One can be naturally pretty—that is, no makeup need apply. Or one can be made-up pretty, where the real woman is hiding behind a mask of colorful chemicals, which your skin absorbs into your body, by the way. Not such a good idea, health-wise.

Then, there are those who are not pretty at all. These have been placed under various labels such as homely, plain, unattractive, and so on. Worse still, one can be downright ugly, although that is more likely to occur among men than women.

Actually, I’ve only met one woman in my life who I would classify as ugly. And even she, if you looked at just the right angle, had a lovely smile. And I mean this in all seriousness, not to disparage.

Of course, the biggest pushers of pretty are Hollywood and the fashion industry, although I wouldn’t classify most of what I’ve seen in the latter category as being pretty—at least from what I have seen on magazine covers. However, one’s taste does change with age, at least mine has.

So much emphasis today is placed on being pretty that it can make one who is less than pretty depressed and even suicidal. Couple that with, “the guys go after the pretty ones,” and you have a pretty desperate situation, in many cases. It’s sad and, apparently, a law of carnal nature.

To me, being pretty is pretty much an ego thing. Far better to be lovely, whether pretty or not. But then again, that philosophy comes with age.

Where pretty is pretty much a fleeting thing, fading with age and dried-up makeup, lovely is forever. And being lovely truly can overcome the lack of being pretty.

At least, that’s how I see it. And if you disagree with anything I have said, refer back to paragraph one.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rivka David
    Jan 24, 2012 @ 23:49:59

    Great post! I aspire to the group of lovelies … and I’m not that bothered what people think about that. Don’t judge from my profile pic – that’s about the 4th time in my life I have ever worn make up … cant be bothered, I’ve got so many other more worthwhile things to do!!!! Shall click the follow button🙂


    • Cris
      Jan 25, 2012 @ 00:27:13

      Thank you, and kudos coming from a woman, given the nature of the subject, means a lot.
      As far as your profile pic goes, you’re pretty and your loveliness shines through, so I don’t think you need to worry about aspiring any longer.
      As far as makeup goes, it can definitely improve a woman’s prettiness, but I don’t judge you or anyone who wears it, at least I don’t think I do. Maybe I do. Who knows? I’m a guy.
      Over the years, I’ve learned through the School of Hard Knocks, as my dad used to call it, that I can get beyond this prettiness issue, but not at first sight. It takes time, but I do eventually get there. You see, I wrote this for myself as much as for anyone else.


  2. utahcarol
    Jan 29, 2012 @ 02:30:48

    can you describe the difference between pretty and lovely? in guy-speak?

    my new goal is to obtain “lovely” because I decided it may be more timeless


    • Cris
      Jan 29, 2012 @ 08:51:49

      Dear Carol, my special friend, thanks for your comment. I’m going to be diplomatic about this . . . I think. 🙂

      If you can tell me which part of this article you are confused about, I’ll know better how to address your issue.

      You see, I thought the point of the entire article was to distinguish between pretty and lovely, at least as how this male guy views the issue. Obviously, I’ve missed something, but then, I warned you right up front.

      Lovely IS more timeless, as I pointed out, my dear friend. You’ve always been “lovely” to me. Pretty, too. 😉


  3. headbrass
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 11:25:33

    Nice. After growing up with all sisters and marrying a woman with 5 sisters and one brother I can honestly say that women are their own worst enemy when it comes to the fight over pretty and lovely. As a man, I just can’t understand their thought process on this. While they complain about the beauty industry and fashion magazines portrayal of women, they are the only ones buying them.

    Love the site!! I’ll be back for more.


    • Cris
      Jan 31, 2012 @ 22:00:18

      Thank you, HB.

      But however much women are mixed up in the fashion and beauty industries, men still like pretty, and men still notice the so-called “hot” women before they’ll notice those less than “hot.” It’s a fact of life.

      And makeup can make some women look prettier. However, on some women, such as so-called super models and really old ladies, I think the makeup makes them look hideous, even if they like it.

      (I have heard it often said that women dress to be appreciated more by other women than men. Sorry, ladies, I’ve read that as well. And I’ve seen how they look each other up and down.)


  4. Gianna
    Oct 11, 2014 @ 11:22:56

    A british man took a look at my picture and told me that I looked lovely, now I don’t know what to think of this because I always thought that they use that word on a regular basis, like to describe their day if it went well.


    • Cris
      Oct 15, 2014 @ 10:59:01

      I can’t tell you about British colloquialisms, but I think you’ve pretty well (no pun intended) described the average American’s use of the word “lovely.”

      Lovely seems to have fallen out of favor, as sexuality takes more and more front stage with Hollywood types and television/movie programming. Now, everything’s “hot.” “Hot” has pretty well replaced “pretty,” as well. And THAT’s nothing but physical.

      It seems that the usage of the word “hot” has taken over any semblance of character in a woman, good or badly behaved. All it matters is that one is “hot.” The terms is even being applied to men, usually of less than sterling character, if photographs show anything.

      I don’t know about your Brit “friend,” but I would wonder why he was telling you about your picture instead of you directly, unless you met him on the Internet, and I’d be careful about that. Should you ever be invited to meet a man you don’t know, whom you met on the Internet (or anywhere else, for that matter), I would recommend meeting him in a very public place.

      I don’t know if anything I’ve said here is relevant to what you wrote, or not, but then I tend to ramble on at the drop of the hat, so to speak. Best wishes for you, and by all means, be careful in your associations, on the Internet or in person.


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