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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 ?
DANCE DELIGHT: Isabella Gasparini as the Ugly Duckling with Giuliano Contadini and Benjamin Mitchell''s Frogs in Northern Ballet''s production of this much-loved story.
A DUCK took shelter on the roof of a Liverpool school to hatch her ducklings.
Ten ducklings are sitting pretty after their canny mum found them a cracking little nest in the back garden of a Birmingham house.
We used linear regression to test whether the number of days a brood survived was affected by distances traveled over land and if distances traveled per day varied with duckling age.
There was excellent agreement on the ugly duckling sign among observers.
Seeing a greater duckling survival under such plush conditions suggests to her that the effects would be even more dramatic in the real world.
Because of fat just beneath the skin, duckling can be very fatty if cooked incorrectly.
We estimated duckling survival to 30 days post-hatch using the nest survival model in program MARK (White and Burnham 1999, Dinsmore et al.
In fact, according to a recent Omnibus survey conducted on behalf of The Duckling Council, only 28 percent of Americans have prepared duck at home, while twice that amount have eaten it.
Stephen Mitchell (reteller) Hans Christian Andersen The Ugly Duckling Walker, 2008 unpaged $27.
Lucy leaned forward, taking care that her shadow didn't fall on the duckling.
It was quite special to be able to gently hold the world's rarest duckling in your hand.
Ducklings love jumping off a dock, or drinking from a birdbath, but most important duckling love YOU.
PALMDALE - Youngsters painted scenery, applied makeup and learned how to put life into a character for a theater camp production of ``The Ugly Duckling.
Turkey may be the main Christmas poultry tradition, but there is space for lots more on the restive menu, including fully cooked honey roast half duckling from Silver Hill Foods.