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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.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
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]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995