I need to know if the adjective "plain" sounds neural or negative in some manners? If the latter is true, can you give me a better, positive alternative to the word? "Simple" would not work either, I guess. Or maybe "unadorned" could work but it is too long a word to use in a casual way.

addition: sorry, I totally forgot to mention the context. The context is the overall decoration of a place such as restaurant or cafe. Also, the context could be food-related too. e.g. "a plain birthday cake"

Thanks in advance!


Yes, "plain" can have a negative connotation, particularly when used to describe a person's appearance.

Things that might get called unadorned in a complimentary way are sometimes also described as "elegant". The word "clean", when referring specifically to visual design, means unadorned.

Something that hasn't been fancied up – such as a face or the finish of a piece of furniture – might be approvingly described as "natural". Things that are rough due to being unworked are sometimes described as "raw".

In retail sales, often the default model without additional ornament or feature, which might unappealingly but accurately be called "plain", is billed to as the "traditional" or "original" model.

And while "plain" can have a negative connotation, in the right context, "plain" can have a positive connotation. When opposition is implied or stated to ornament as concealment or distraction, "plain" becomes complimentary, especially if paired with other obviously positive terms.

  • Great, thank you! I didn't give the exact context in the original message, so now I'm editing it with the addition of context. Can you please add to your answer your thoughts about the usage of "plain" in reference to meals and especially overall decoration of a place? Your answer is perfectly written so far! Thanks again! – Reactor4 Jul 12 '17 at 5:36

Depending on context


might be used in place of plain to say something does not standout.

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