I recently saw the question Is the spelling beautifuly correct? at ELL.

Before I even looked at it, I had thought of a joking response:

✘ No, it's ugly incorrect.

But I quickly stopped myself, realizing that wasn't right. I then very briefly thought of the following variations:

✘ No, it's uglily incorrect.
✘ No, it's uglilly incorrect.
✘ No, it's ugily incorrect.
✘ No, it's ugilly incorrect.

Of course, none of those is right either.

Although I'll note that each of those suggestions follows a generally correct approach to changing such an adjective into an adverb.

  • Happyhappily.
  • Jollyjollily.

I'll add that ugly is actually an adverb:

: in an ugly manner
// was acting ugly

However, the sentence construction in which its adverbial form is grammatically used doesn't match the construction of the sentence I'm looking at here.

I'll also add—thanks to an answer provided in response to the original version of my question before this edit——that Merriam-Webster does actually show this:

Other Words from ugly
uglily \ ˈə-​glə-​lē \ adverb

I was surprised to have missed this, and to find that it exists in the first place. Still, I'd say that's so unusual that, even if it were expected by some audiences, most would mark as a mistake on the grounds of it being unidiomatic.

The sentence could be rephrased or the base word changed:

✔ It's beautifully correct.

✔ No, it's grotesquely incorrect.
✔ No, it's an ugly incorrect spelling.

But that means either dispensing with ugly altogether, or altering the sentence to accommodate ugly in a way that beautifully does not require.

So, to restate:

✔ It's beautifully correct.
✘ It's (ugly) incorrect.

Is there a word that expresses the fact that ugly cannot be turned into an acceptable adverbial form in the same way that beautiful can be turned into beautifully?

In short, what word or linguistic descriptive term would be used to describe this so-called intransigent aspect of ugly?

If used in a sentence:

In this context, the word ugly is _____.

The adjective (or phrase) should mean that the word cannot be reformed in a grammatically and idiomatically acceptable way.

I'm specifically focused on the word ugly and its inability to be turned into something acceptable, but, as with the title of this question, will be content with a word or phrase that describes this phenomenon in general.

  • 1
    What's amiss with uglily? Meseems it fast-formed and fine-wrought.
    – tchrist
    May 31, 2020 at 18:24
  • infelicitous
    – Mitch
    May 31, 2020 at 21:00
  • 1
    'Infelicitous' is what linguists use in pragmatics for statement that are true of a situation but just not what you would say'. eg there are two cats sleeping in a room - it would be infelicitous to say "The cat is asleep". It's not a far cry to apply it analgously to a word form that follows the rules, but just sounds awful. 'Intransigent' applies to people.
    – Mitch
    May 31, 2020 at 22:29
  • 1
    Look into morphological derivation and productivity. And I bet there's a treasure trove of research for you to do starting here: English adverbs ending in -lily. (See reference at end: Laurie Bauer, "Scalar productivity and -lily adverbs.") Jun 1, 2020 at 18:06
  • 1
    @TinfoilHat See “Restricting Suffix Combinations in German and English: Closing Suffixes and the Monosuffix Constraint” by Mark Aronoff and Nanna Fuhrhop, Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Aug., 2002), pp. 451–490.
    – tchrist
    Jun 7, 2020 at 2:30

1 Answer 1



What's the adverb that goes along with the adjective "ugly"?

Believe it or not, it's 'uglily'. Ain't that ugly?

There's a verb 'uglify', meaning 'make ugly', and from there we derive the noun 'uglification', which Prince Charles recently hit the headlines for using. The Times described it as an 'excrescense'; I've waited until now for a chance to mention that little irony.


Other Words from ugly Adjective

uglily \ ˈə-​glə-​lē \ adverb

  • Excellent. +1 for spotting that notation later on in the definition. I'd somehow missed it. So, it turns out that it can be turned into the type of adverb that I need. However, it still looks horribly wrong, and I'd say that it would be marked as incorrect by most audiences who read it in some kind of publication. So, I'm still wondering if there's a word that can be used to describe words like these that resist such manipulation. May 31, 2020 at 20:35

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