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One that is considered ugly or unpromising at first but has the potential to become beautiful or admirable in maturity.
[After The Ugly Duckling, , a story by Hans Christian Andersen.]
a person or thing, initially ugly or unpromising, that changes into something beautiful or admirable
[an allusion to The Ugly Duckling, a story by Hans Christian Andersen]
an unattractive or unpromising child who becomes a beautiful or much-admired adult.
[1880–85; after the bird in the story of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen]