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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 ?
Mother ducks are very caring and protective of their young, and lead their newly hatched ducklings to water.
Sami Heppell, of Marske, with the ducklings and, above |right, with foster mum Chop Suey 010415DUCKS PETER REIMANN
BACK IN THE SWIM The ducklings are making a good recovery
We managed to distract the pride, and evacuated the ducklings just in time.
They were called in by RSPCA officers who had been unable to save the ducklings from a mill pond off Adeline Terrace, Holmbridge.
Matilda with her ducklings and Lyndsey assistant manager at the pub.
WAITING IN THE WINGS Hooded Crow watching ducklings in Blackrock Park in Dublin yesterday
Norma Thomas, a member of the congregation and a volunteer at the church tea rooms, said: "We've always had a duck and a drake that come back every year but never ducklings.
Seven years ago, people thought this bird was already extinct and yet the discovery of one small population and now the arrival of these ducklings has led to real hope that the birds can one day flourish again.
Meanwhile, in another province, a flock of ducklings have been adopted by a hen.
We located hens after hatch every 2-5 days until ducklings were 30 days of age or until we observed a female without a brood on two consecutive tracking sessions.
A farmer feared one of his hens had gone quackers - after she adopted a flock of ducklings and began raising them as her own chicks.
In this little book we learn what ducklings love to do.
Bangkok Ranch, one of the world's largest producers of Pekin ducklings, is about to launch its first range of authentic Dalee duck dishes, aimed at the flexi-eating and quick meal sectors, to the buyers of Europe.
She based them on the ducklings in the famous children's book Make Way for Ducklings.