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ugly duckling

A person or thing once considered unattractive or unlikely to succeed that becomes beautiful or successful in time. The phrase refers to Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of an ugly duckling that grows up to be a beautiful swan. The phrase can apply to physical appearance or to the level of success of something. I thought that fledgling company would dissolve in months. No one foresaw that it was just an ugly duckling and would have great success. Mary went unnoticed in high school but she's gorgeous now—a real ugly duckling!
See also: duckling, ugly

ugly duckling

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.
See also: duckling, ugly

an ugly duckling

a young person who turns out to be beautiful or talented against all expectations.
The Ugly Duckling is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen in which the ‘ugly duckling’, mocked and jeered at by his peers, eventually develops into a beautiful swan.
See also: duckling, ugly

an ˌugly ˈduckling

(informal) a person or thing that at first does not seem attractive or likely to succeed but that later becomes successful or much admired: He’s got the looks of a film star now, but he was a real ugly duckling as a child.This comes from a children’s story by Hans Christian Andersen, in which a young swan is raised with ducklings. They have to stop teasing him about his ugliness when he grows into a beautiful swan.
See also: duckling, ugly
References in periodicals archive ?
The Ugly Duckling trying to make some froggy friends
He said Duckling was grappling with family contact arrangements at the time.
That 85% sensitivity when the ugly duckling sign was applied by non-clinicians is much higher than the percentage seen in studies of the ABCD method, Dr.
Furthermore, among lakes used for duckling experiments in Sweden, the proportion without wild broods in the 1995 and 1996 censuses was 68% (see Methods: Duckling experiments), which is remarkably close to figures from our Finnish study areas (69% and 71%).
The ducklings break out of their eggs essentially ready to swim to breakfast and hardly seem to need two parents.
For a traditional holiday meal, try Roast Duckling and Corn Bread Stuffing.
Sebastian said: "The great thing about Ugly Duckling and other children's stories is that they teach important and timeless values from a young age.
MICHELIN Z GLIDE The hungry heron takes off with its duck dinner LEAF IT OUT JThe duckling wriggles free GIMME' THE BILL JThe heron dives into grab the duckling
Ten ducklings are sitting pretty after their canny mum found them a cracking little nest in the back garden of a Birmingham house.
A DUCK took shelter on the roof of a Liverpool school to hatch her ducklings.
Lucy leaned forward, taking care that her shadow didn't fall on the duckling.
Stephen Mitchell (reteller) Hans Christian Andersen The Ugly Duckling Walker, 2008 unpaged $27.
Nancy Tafuri's GOODNIGHT, MY DUCKLING (0439398819, $16.
Dale Cole, with over 30 years experience of the poultry sector gained from his time as MD of the Sovereign Food Group and Manor Farm Ducklings, is the newly appointed European Market Development Director for the Thai-based company that markets the world-renowned 'Dalee' brand of duckling products.