Etymology: Middle English praty, prety, from Old English prættig tricky, from prætt trick; akin to Old Norse prettr trick
Date: before 12th century
a. artful, clever
b. pat, apt
a. pleasing by delicacy or grace
b. having conventionally accepted elements of beauty
c. appearing or sounding pleasant or nice but lacking strength, force, manliness, purpose, or intensity <pretty words that make no sense — Elizabeth B. Browning> 3. a. miserable, terrible <a pretty mess you've gotten us into> b. chiefly Scottish stout 4. moderately large ; considerable <a very pretty profit> <cost a pretty penny> 5. easy to enjoy ; pleasant — usually used in negative constructions <reality is not so pretty — Caleb Solomon> Synonyms: see beautiful • prettily adverb • prettyish adjective II. adverb Date: 1565 1. a. in some degree ; moderately <pretty cold weather> b. quite, mainly <the wound was…pretty bad — Walt Whitman> 2. in a pretty manner ; prettily <pop vocalists who can sing pretty — Gerald Levitch> Usage: Some handbooks complain that pretty is overworked and recommend the selection of a more specific word or restrict pretty to informal or colloquial contexts. Pretty is used to tone down a statement and is in wide use across the whole spectrum of English. It is common in informal speech and writing but is neither rare nor wrong in serious discourse <he may, if he be pretty well off or clever, qualify himself as a doctor — G. B. Shaw> <a return to those traditions of American foreign policy which worked pretty well for over a century — H. S. Commager> <the arguments for buying expensive books have to be pretty cogent — Times Literary Supplement> III. noun (plural pretties) Date: 1736 1. plural dainty clothes; especially lingerie 2. a pretty person or thing IV. transitive verb (prettied; prettying) Date: 1909 to make pretty — usually used with up <curtains to pretty up the room>
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.