I overheard two scoundrels discussing one of their dates as being "coyote ugly".

  • 4
    Scoundrels? Really? Are you sure you're not just finding questions to which you already know the answer and posting them here?
    – Robusto
    Mar 8, 2011 at 1:29
  • 2
    The only good Robusto is also a Maduro - and generally, just as thin of skin....
    – user5531
    Mar 8, 2011 at 2:01
  • Coyote's have a different beauty aesthetic than humans. What is ugly for a coyote might be ravishing to a human. 'Coyote ugly' means ugly for a coyote, but pretty good for a human.
    – Mitch
    Jun 22, 2016 at 13:24

4 Answers 4


This comes from the term "coyote date," in which an inebriated person awakens the following morning with a person of the opposite sex in bed. The protagonist's arm is pinned beneath the ugly person's body.

Allegedly, a coyote, when caught in a steel-jawed trap, will gnaw off its own leg to escape.

You can do the math from here.


Other than the popularization of the term from the movie of the same name, I believe it derives from the behavior of coyotes, which (among other canines), when caught in a trap will gnaw off a leg in order to escape death. It describes a person (usually a woman) who is so undesirable that her partner (usually a guy) is willing to gnaw off the limb she is sleeping on in order to escape rather than waking her. The guy will usually find himself in this situation when, after a night of heavy drinking, he wakes up the next morning in the bed of a woman he does not remember meeting and has no desire of getting to know better.


Along with the correct explanations of 'Coyote Ugly', as already provided by The Raven and morganpdx, the whole picture is not complete without giving the three rating levels of the unfortunate date: 'One-bagger', 'Two-bagger', and 'Coyote Ugly'.

One-bagger describes someone so uncomely that they are made to wear a bag over their head so that you don't have to look at their face while copulating.

Two-bagger describes a person who is so much more distasteful that not only do you require them to wear a bag over their head, but you don one yourself in case the bag over their head falls off.

Coyote Ugly, the worst of the three levels, has already been explained.

  • 1
    Double coyote ugly -is where you bite your other arm off because she is out there looking for a one armed man!
    – mgb
    Jul 25, 2011 at 5:02

I would guess it is just as ugly as a coyote. -

Added: In Urban Dictionary there are some posts about the story as posted by The Raven above. The film Coyote Ugly is from 2000. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=coyote+ugly

The expression coyote ugly is older, though. From the early 1980s, used among American students for piss ugly. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/coyote%20?&o=100074&s=t

Google Ngram confirms this student expression. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=coyote+ugly&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Ccoyote%20ugly%3B%2Cc0

So it may be assumed the film took up an expression already in use, but is not the origin of the expression.

  • This is the wrong answer. It’s about the coyote gnawing his arm off to escape.
    – tchrist
    May 30, 2015 at 1:34