‘Plain’ vs ‘Plane’: What’s the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on October 24, 2023

Are you curious about the difference between 'plain' vs. 'plane?' I can help!

Here is the short version, in case you are in a rush: 

  • 'Plain' is an adjective, noun, adverb, and verb that means lacking decoration, embellishment, beauty, or ugliness. 
  • 'Plane' is a noun and a verb that means airplane or a level of consciousness or existence. 

These terms have several other meanings, though. So, if you want to learn the definitions of 'plain' and 'plane' and the correct way to use each, keep reading!

What is the Difference Between 'Plain' vs. 'Plane?'

'Plain' and 'plane' are homophones, meaning they sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. So, many writers and English language learners get these terms mixed up.

Nevertheless, 'plain' is most commonly used as an adjective that means unembellished, simple, or lacking in ugliness or beauty. 'Plane' is most often used as a noun for an airplane.

However, it can also mean a tool used to make a surface flat or the action of making something level or even, and 'plain' can also mean a large treeless expanse, something free from ornament, or in a simple manner without ambiguity or obscurity.

Definition of 'Plain': What Does 'Plain' Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'plain' as an adjective that means:

  • Pure or free from extra or unnecessary matter

It can also mean:

  • Clear or easily seen or observed
  • Obvious
  • Common or belonging to the masses
  • Undecorated or unembellished
  • Ordinary or lacking anything special
  • Uncomplicated and marked by simplicity
  • Lacking attractiveness or unattractiveness
  • Regular or unenhanced

'Plain' can also be a noun that means:

  • A large expanse without trees
  • Something free from embellishment, artifice, or ornament

'Plain' can also be an adverb that means:

  • Done plainly without obscurity, uncertainty, or ambiguity
  • Completely or absolutely

'Plain' was also an archaic term used as a verb that meant:

  • Complain

Synonyms and Similar Terms to 'Plain'

  • Simple
  • Bare
  • Unadorned
  • Clean
  • Unembellished
  • Stripped
  • Vanilla
  • Bleak
  • Modest
  • Undecorated
  • Homely
  • Subdued
  • Earthy
  • Natural
  • Unpretentious
  • Conservative
  • Minimalist
  • Basic
  • Unobtrusive
  • Pure
  • Straight
  • Fresh
  • Untouched
  • Unmixed
  • Unpolluted
  • Fine
  • Absolute
  • Unadulterated
  • Uncorrupted
  • Untainted
  • Clarified
  • Neat

Definition of 'Plane': What Does 'Plane' Mean?

The same source defines 'plane' as a noun that means:

  • The shortening or abbreviation of airplane
  • The flat or straight supporting sides of an airplane
  • A surface that is level or flat
  • Consciousness or existence
  • A tool for smoothing surfaces

'Plane' can also be a verb that means:

  • To level or make smooth or even
  • To make something smooth using a plane (tool)
  • To remove or take away as if by planning
  • To work on or with a plane
  • To drive by plane
  • To glide or slide across the surface of a body of water
  • To fly without moving wings

'Plane' can also be an adjective that means:

  • Flat with no depressions or elevations
  • Lying in a plane
  • Of or dealing with planes in geometry

Synonyms and Similar Terms to 'Plane'

  • Airplane
  • Aircraft
  • Jet
  • Aeroplane
  • Air taxi
  • Turbojet
  • Jumbojet
  • Lightplane
  • Superjet
  • Turboprop
  • Level
  • Smooth
  • Horizontal
  • Flat
  • Even
  • Uniform
  • Aligned
  • Straight
  • Flatten
  • Rake
  • Shave
  • Smooth
  • Trim
  • Crop
  • Clip
  • Press

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Plain' vs. 'Plane'

Pronunciation is a vital part of learning new words. Learning to pronounce terms like 'plain' and 'plane' correctly helps boost your confidence so you feel more comfortable using the words in conversations or when speaking publicly.

So, here is a guide you can follow for pronouncing 'plain' vs. 'plane.'

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'plain':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'plane':


When and How to Use 'Plain' vs. 'Plane'

Now that you know the definitions of these words, let's look at when and how to use each term.

  • Use 'plain' when you are speaking about something that is basic or unenhanced.

For example, I might say:

I want a plain bagel with regular cream cheese and a large vanilla latte. 

  • Use 'plane' when you are talking about an airplane or air travel.

As an example, I might say:

I have always liked flying on planes.

  • Use 'plain' for a broad expanse of land without trees.

So, you might hear someone say:

When you looked out on the plain, there was nothing but green grassy fields as far as the eye could see

  • Use 'plane' to say that someone is making a surface flat or free of imperfections.

For example, you can say:

He is an expert at using the plane to plane the surface until it is completely flat. 

Sample Sentences Using 'Plain' vs. 'Plane'

Finally, read these sample sentences using 'plain' vs. 'plane.' They will help you remember the meanings of these terms and learn additional ways to use them.


  • I do not want anything fancy. I just want a plain white dress.
  • Do not order him plain coffee, or he will plain about it when you get back to the office.
  • When we asked him what he thought of the decorations, he said, 'They are too plain!'


  • How many times have you ridden on a plane?
  • Do you like flying on planes, or does it make you nervous?
  • According to the instructions, you should use the plane to smooth the surface before you paint it with the new color.


  • Have you seen the airline's new planes? They are so plain!
  • You should consider wearing something plain and comfortable when you are traveling by plane.

Last Thoughts on the Difference Between 'Plain' vs. 'Plane'

Wow! We covered a lot of information. So, let's do a quick recap of what you learned about the difference between 'plain' vs. 'plane':

  • 'Plain' is an adjective, adverb, noun, and verb used to say that something is simple, unadulterated, and lacks beauty or unattractiveness. 
  • 'Plain' as a noun also means a large treeless clearing of land or meadow. 
  • 'Plane' is a noun and adjective adjective that means airplane or a level surface that is free of indentations or elevations. 
  • 'Plane' can also mean a tool that levels surfaces or to use a tool to level a surface when it is used as a noun or verb. 

Even after learning the meanings of these words, they can stump writers. So, if you find yourself wondering which of these words to use, you can always return to this post to review this lesson.

You can also verify the meanings of hundreds of other words like these in the confusing words section here. Each guide contains a short and detailed explanation with definitions, grammar rules, tips, examples, and pronunciations.

So, whether you are learning English as a second language or working on improving your writing skills, these posts are an excellent resource.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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