Possible Duplicate:
Euphemisms to replace “fat”

In French you could say that a woman is plus en chair, plus ronde, which are not necessarily pejorative.

How can I say the same thing in English?

Lindsay Lohan was cuter when she was […].

  • 2
    I don't think it's a duplicate. It's a mistake to assume a "bigger" woman is a fat woman. Certainly, Lindsay Lohan never qualified as the latter!
    – user13141
    Nov 4, 2011 at 9:12
  • 10
    Pick a word for "thin" with a negative or neutral connotation, and negate that: "She was cuter when she was less skinny", "when she looked less emaciated", "less famished", "less starved", "less like a bag of bones", "less scrawny"... Nov 4, 2011 at 9:54
  • 5
    She'd look better after a few sandwiches. Nov 4, 2011 at 13:26
  • @Manu I'm curious about these French idioms. Do you know of a good reference? I couldn't find anything on a quick google that would give more detail on their conotations or denotations.
    – Tom Resing
    Nov 4, 2011 at 16:04
  • "Some girls are bigger than others/Some girls are bigger than others/Some girls' mothers are bigger than other girls' mothers." --The Smiths
    – Gnawme
    Nov 4, 2011 at 16:18

8 Answers 8


I'd probably opt for one of the following (and definitely not use the word large - I don't know any women who'd take that as an unambiguous compliment):

She was cuter when she was curvier (or I liked her better when she had curves)

She was cuter when she had a fuller figure

She was cuter when she had a little meat on her bones (a bit old-fashioned)

Edit: Since people seem to be having difficulty imagining a fuller figure without conjuring up images of Godzilla, here's a comparative photo of the actual person OP is referencing, before and after she lost weight. I don't think anyone in their right mind would call the curvier Lohan fat.

enter image description here

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    Personally, I'd find "when she had a little meat on her bones" a little objectifying (lecherous, even), but the other two work fairly well.
    – Hannele
    Nov 4, 2011 at 14:00
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    @Hannele to be perfectly clear, I think they're all objectifying - but isn't sizing someone up (whether male or female) by definition an act of objectification?
    – user13141
    Nov 4, 2011 at 14:06
  • True enough! Could it be said, then, that there are degrees of objectification? Not to open a can of worms, but there is a difference between apt description of human appearance, versus taking a person's description to imply their meaningfulness as a human being (which I think has a lot to do with why there is such delicacy involved in describing larger individuals). Any of the terms suggested could be used in the pejorative or objectifying sense, given the appropriate context, but it would be harder to find non pejorative contexts for words like 'fat' or 'chubby'.
    – Hannele
    Nov 4, 2011 at 14:14
  • Yes, good points. I think ultimately, as you hint at, the sentiment of any of these comments is going to be circumstantial and open to subjective interpretation. There are numerous self-proclaimed "fat fetishists" and "chubby chasers" who go crazy for overweight people (and are, in their own way, just as fully objectifying the objects of their attraction).
    – user13141
    Nov 4, 2011 at 14:21
  • OP asked for "non-pejorative" way, not an "unambiguous compliment" way (there is a logical difference). I think "Large" is perfectly neutral in intent -- whether the person on the receiving end takes offsense is another issue. Nov 4, 2011 at 17:24

Large is possibily a word that (might) not cause too much offence. Filled out or fuller figured are perhaps good alternatives, too. I like the term "voluptuous", which is often used to refer to an attractive, larger woman. With all of these options, the person to whom you are referring may take offence anyway - use with caution!

  • 4
    Just another thought: "Big boned" is often used as a polite reference to someone with a larger/fuller figure, but its overuse for comedic value (and its obvious lack of physiological truth), make it, in my opinion, an unsuitable option.
    – Matt
    Nov 4, 2011 at 8:40
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    I like "fuller figured", I didn't know this expression.
    – Manu
    Nov 4, 2011 at 8:41
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    I think voluptuous has a sexual connotation that the French en chair does not convey!
    – None
    Nov 4, 2011 at 8:56
  • "Big boned" implies a specific solid kind of largeness; not flabby; and suggesting that it's not really excess weight, but a natural part of the person's frame. Oh, the subtle inferences of the various words for largeness!
    – slim
    Nov 4, 2011 at 14:13

There is no safe way to phrase this, but you might have more luck by turning it around:

Lindsay Lohan was cuter when she was less skinny.


There is no non-pejorative way of saying that a woman is bigger.

  • 5
    To whoever down-voted my answer, I can only say 'Have you tried it?' Nov 4, 2011 at 12:33
  • 1
    +1 because I have tried, and failed. I have however had some success with "voluptuous" or "full figured"
    – bakoyaro
    Nov 4, 2011 at 13:07
  • +1. If you do try it, for God's sake don't try it to the person's face.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 4, 2011 at 13:15

Don't. Women are so conditioned to think "bigger is worse", that there is really no way to get through to them that way.

If it were me, I'd instead concentrate on the negative aspects of the current look. With a society where women are conditioned to think they are never attractive enough, sadly this is much more likely to get through.

Personally I find it quite unattractive (if not frighening) when I can clearly see the contours of bone joints on a person through their skin. I don't think I'm alone there.

So for your example, it would be more like

.. when she wasn't so skeletal.

... when she didn't look like an AIDS patient.

  • I wonder, though, mightn't we put some effort into redeeming the more-than-minuscule? If words like curvy or round are left to be used exclusively as insults, don't the bad guys win?
    – user13141
    Nov 4, 2011 at 16:22
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    @T.E.D. About the "bigger is worse" thing, you do know this is NOT true in all countries/cultures, right?
    – yms
    Nov 4, 2011 at 17:02
  • @yms - I understand that it wasn't always true in mine either. However, this is the one I live in.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 4, 2011 at 18:17
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    @onomatomaniak - I agree in principle. However, things are so screwed up right now that I believe the first step has to be establishing the concept that there can ineed be a too skinny. Hence my answer above. Until everybody understands that concept, nobody will have any luck rehabilitating "the more-than-miniscule". (And yes, Sir Mix-a-lot is my hero. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_Got_Back )
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 4, 2011 at 18:22

She was cuter before she lost all that weight.


As used by my friends: "When __ didn't look anorexic", even when they were just plain thin.


If you are saying "was cuter" isn't your sentence is already critical of her physical appearance? If you would like to be more positive when talking to a woman, find something you like about her as she is now and don't concentrate on the past. On the other hand, talking about a woman's physical appearance without her around might, in some audiences, lean towards being viewed as critical or going too far no matter what you say.

In general, when commenting on a woman's physical appearance, or any other attribute for that matter, you're always better off sticking to the positive.

Also, if it were me, I would avoid going into too much detail unless you are intimately involved. It's a subject that often has a very high emotional response and must be treated with delicately if you want to have a happy response.

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