Is there a term, a phrase or an idiomatic expression to describe a young woman who, while pretty when seen from behind, is ugly, if not repulsive, when seen from the front?

After some searches I focused my attention on "double-faced woman", but I'm unsure whether this is the best expression one can think of.

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    A butterface. Everything's hot but her face. Sep 6 '13 at 20:03
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    If it is in english I would write bakku-shan in italics since its the exact definition of what you are trying to convey. Sep 6 '13 at 20:20
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    A Mexican friend of mine once told me they use the term "shrimp" - the body is good, but the head is useless.
    – Mike G
    Sep 6 '13 at 20:28
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    I downvoted because it looked like trolling for slang like "butterface", which is very insulting to women. Downvote cancelled.
    – JeffSahol
    Sep 6 '13 at 21:03
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    She had a back that launched a thousand ships.
    – bib
    Sep 6 '13 at 23:57

A butterface:

Etymology 1

Contraction of "but her face" (as in: "Everything about her is great, ... but her face.").


butterface (plural butterfaces)

(slang) A woman who has an attractive body but less attractive facial features.  

  • We use butterface in my region as a girl who is otherwise skinny or average but has a chubby face. Sep 6 '13 at 20:10

A slang term would be brunt. The japanese have an exact word for it bakku-shan.

Brunt meaning everything ugly in front. Butterface is a good substitute but points out that she has an ugly/chubby face which might not be the case.

  • 1
    Please provide a reference for your answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 7 '13 at 7:36

Consider the word


The most famous gorgon is Medusa. often mis-portrayed in recent films, Medusa actually has tremendous beauty; the curse was to add this hideousness that caused death to mortals. All the Gorgons have this quality.

It's maybe 'leveraged', but you could think of any beautiful thing that has a surprise-ugliness as a gorgon.

Since gorgons are powerful creatures, this term could be appropriate to the heroine of a story.

FWIW, I do not think there is a non-derogatory word for this, since the judgement of ugliness is inherent in all such terms. If you want a non-judgemental, the closest I can think is

Black Swan

I.E.: Appears ugly, but has a hidden beauty that emerges.

But, this is the opposite of what you asked, which is that the beauty is seen first, the ugliness later. By compare, Medusa's beauty was recognized by mortals only after she was dead.


From comment box,

I'm writing an interesting essay whose leading character is a young woman who never takes off her burqa [...] the young woman, an Islamic living in the U.S., is sure of being a "butterface" and, as such, she has a fear of being viewed her face, but [...] when she takes off her burqa, an American man falls in love with her, enchanted from her Arab face

Taking into consideration the OP's comments it appears he is not really interested in a term which describes a woman being attractive from behind and whose facial features are unpleasant. Instead, he is writing an essay about a woman who thinks she has an unattractive (ugly) face.

The additional information demands a more suitable word for an essay/story, especially as I seriously doubt a Muslim woman, born outside the USA, would be aware of the American slang words; butter face or prawn which are both highly derogatory. No woman, I know of, would ever describe herself in those terms.

Hence, I would suggest the more appropriate idiom, a plain Jane, a woman or girl who is not attractive.


according to Internet Slang, means exactly:

Girl who is good looking except for her face

I have never heard of this expression, but shrimps (sometimes called prawns) swim backwards, which might explain the etymology of this uncomplimentary expression.

Shrimp normally swim backwards when they move fast. They crawl forward or move forward slowly my manoeuvring their flippers and feet, but when they move quickly, they kick backwards.

I found a more reliable reference for "prawn" in Urban dictionary

(I corrected spelling and other minor punctuation mistakes)

To describe a chick that has a mad body, but a bad face. It comes from when you eat a prawn, you eat the body and throw away the head ...

(Australian) person 1: Man, did u end up hookin up with that chick?
person 2: Yeah, but she was a bit of a prawn tho'


Consider ugly duckling

a person or thing, initially ugly or unpromising, that changes into something beautiful or admirable