mid-14c., "meekness, gentleness," also "familiarity, intimacy; friendliness," from homely + -ness. Sense degenerated by c. 1400 to "want of refinement in manners, coarseness; presumptuousness." Meaning "lack of beauty" is by 1849.
late 14c., "of or belonging to home or household, domestic," from Middle English hom "home" (see home (n.)) + -ly (1). Sense of "plain, unadorned, simple" (as domestic scenes often were) is late 14c., and extension to "having a plain appearance, without particular beauty of features, crude" took place c. 1400, but survived chiefly in U.S., especially in New England, where it was the usual term for "physically unattractive;" ugly meaning typically "ill-tempered." In the old sense of "domestic, of or pertaining to domestic life," homish (1560s) and homelike (1789) have been used.
word-forming element denoting action, quality, or state, attached to an adjective or past participle to form an abstract noun, from Old English -nes(s), from Proto-Germanic *in-assu- (cognates: Old Saxon -nissi, Middle Dutch -nisse, Dutch -nis, Old High German -nissa, German -nis, Gothic -inassus), from *-in-, originally belonging to the noun stem, + *-assu-, abstract noun suffix, probably from the same root as Latin -tudo (see -tude).
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Definitions of homeliness from WordNet
having a drab or dowdy quality; lacking stylishness or elegance;
Synonyms: dowdiness / drabness
an appearance that is not attractive or beautiful;
fine clothes could not conceal the girl's homeliness