c. 1300, "flat, smooth," from Old French plain "flat, smooth, even" (12c.), from Latin planus "flat, even, level" (from PIE root *pele- (2) "flat; to spread"). Sense of "evident" is from, c. 1300; that of "free from obstruction" is early 14c.; meaning "simple, sincere, ordinary" is recorded from late 14c., especially of dress, "unembellished, without decoration."
In reference to the dress and speech of Quakers, it is recorded from 1824; of Amish and Mennonites, from 1894 (in the Dutch regions of Pennsylvania Plain with the capital is shorthand adjective for "Amish and Old Order Mennonite"). Of appearance, as a euphemism for "ill-favored, ugly" it dates from 1749. Of envelopes from 1913. As an adverb from early 14c. Plain English is from c. 1500. Plain dealer "one who deals plainly or speaks candidly" is from 1570s, marked "Now rare" in OED 2nd edition. To be as plain as the nose on (one's) face is from 1690s.
"level country," c. 1300 (in reference to Salisbury Plain), from Old French plain "open countryside," from Latin planum "level ground, plain," noun use of neuter of planus (adj.) "flat, even, level" (from PIE root *pele- (2) "flat; to spread"). Latin planum was used for "level ground" but much more common was campus.
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