I use 'pretty man' as my nickname. But recently I have heard that the word 'pretty' is used only with women. Please tell me if 'pretty man' sounds good or it sounds weird and I should be embarassed? Maybe, it has some hidden meaning.

  • 3
    It does sound weird, but then 'handsomeman' would sound like you think you are on a dating site. There is always going to be residual amount of weirdness associated with a value-judgment physical description of self (particularly a positive one), where people will wonder what reaction you are attempting to engender, and from whom.
    – abligh
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 15:30

2 Answers 2


From Oxford:

1 (Of a person, especially a woman or child) attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful.

So, whilst generally used for women, it is not exclusive. It is fine for someone to say "he's pretty", but it is not as common as, say, "he's handsome".

"Pretty boy" is more oft used than "pretty man" and I could see scenarios where "pretty" could indicate a lesser masculinity. Indeed, TV Tropes has a page on the term "pretty boy".

This ngram shows the difference in usage of "man" and "woman".

But it's your nickname - so don't be defined by a dictionary definition.

  • 3
    You sometimes hear pretty boy, but rarely pretty man.
    – MorganFR
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 11:40
  • @MorganFR - I agree. I will update.
    – Ste
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 11:41
  • 7
    To expand on this a little, when we call a man (or usually a boy) "pretty" we mean that they have the characteristics we would associate with attractiveness in women - for example: smooth skin, no facial hair, small chin, small nose, etc. It doesn't necessarily mean that we think they look like a woman, but there will be a lot of "crossover" with men described as pretty and men who we think look like a woman. It may alternatively be used to refer to someone who spends a lot of time on their appearance. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 12:04
  • 4
    You're in exalted company - Muhammad Ali described himself as 'pretty' on numerous occasions.
    – Jeremy
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 13:15
  • 5
    I have mostly heard pretty boy as a derogatory term. One who is obsessed with their looks or unwilling to get there hands dirty as they might "break a nail". Often arrogant. But pretty man seems normal enough.
    – marsh
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 14:14

Prettiness is supposed by popular culture to be a female attribute rather than male.

Whilst it is perfectly normal to describe a man, or boy as handsome, saying that either is pretty carries more than a hint of effeminacy. It can indeed be derogatory.

Though in recent times it has become fashionable in western society for men to adopt dress and characteristics more traditionally associated with women, it has not (at least yet) become popular to call men pretty.

All of the above refers to the modern sense of pretty. But it is a word which has had a long history since it's Saxon origins. It's original sense was cunning, crafty before going on to mean clever, skilful, able. The English surname Prettyman calls up one of these meanings.

  • 1
    In much the same way that calling a woman handsome is considered impolite and derogatory. It usually denotes masculine features. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 15:33
  • 1
    @JesseWilliams It is not my experience (in Britain) that it is derogatory to use handsome for a woman. Only recently I heard a female celebrity being described as handsome. Also it's not borne out by OED sense 4b. Of a person (occas. an animal): attractive and pleasing in appearance, esp. in having a well-proportioned figure and noble bearing; (now) spec. (of a woman) striking, stately, as opposed to conventionally beautiful or pretty; (of a man) good-looking. Also of the face, figure, etc. But I agree that it is used differently with women, and does not so directly apply to looks.
    – WS2
    Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 17:05
  • Interesting. In American English, the typical usage of a woman being described as handsome is a situation where they want to say something that explicitly means something negative, but feel it's wrong to do so. Sort of a back-handed compliment of sorts. Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 20:07

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.