Nouns (17)

looking at, looking, look
n. the act of directing the eyes toward something and perceiving it visually; "he went out to have a look"; "his look was fixed on her eyes"; "he gave it a good looking at"; "his camera does his looking for him"
n. physical appearance; "I don't like the looks of this place"
facial expression, face, aspect, look, expression
n. the feelings expressed on a person's face; "a sad expression"; "a look of triumph"; "an angry face"
smell, look, flavour, flavor, feeling, feel, tone, spirit
n. the general atmosphere of a place or situation and the effect that it has on people; "the feel of the city excited him"; "a clergyman improved the tone of the meeting"; "it had the smell of treason"

Verbs (13)

appear, look
v. perceive with attention; direct one's gaze towards; "She looked over the expanse of land"; "Look at your child!"; "Look--a deer in the backyard!"
wait, await, look, expect
v. look forward to the probable occurrence of; "We were expecting a visit from our relatives"; "She is looking to a promotion"; "he is waiting to be drafted"
v. convey by one's expression; "She looked her devotion to me"
look, search
v. search or seek; "We looked all day and finally found the child in the forest"; "Look elsewhere for the perfect gift!"
v. accord in appearance with; "You don't look your age!"
face, look, front
v. be oriented in a certain direction, often with respect to another reference point; be opposite to; "The house looks north"; "My backyard look onto the pond"; "The building faces the park"

Adverbs (0)

There are no items for this category

Adjectives (0)

There are no items for this category

Fuzzynyms (70)

regard, gaze
n. a long fixed look; "he fixed his paternal gaze on me"
n. activity that tries to conceal something; "no mask could conceal his ignorance"; "they moved in under a mask of friendship"
visual aspect, appearance
n. outward or visible aspect of a person or thing
n. physical appearance; "I don't like the looks of this place"
n. (obsolete) a combination of elements (of dryness and warmth or of the four humors) that was once believed to determine a person's health and temperament
pretext, pretence, pretense, guise
n. an artful or simulated semblance; "under the guise of friendship he betrayed them"
facial expression, face, aspect, look, expression
n. the feelings expressed on a person's face; "a sad expression"; "a look of triumph"; "an angry face"
n. high social status; "a man of quality"
atmosphere, aura, air
n. a distinctive but intangible quality surrounding a person or thing; "an air of mystery"; "the house had a neglected air"; "an atmosphere of defeat pervaded the candidate's headquarters"; "the place had an aura of romance"
n. the advancing of a claim; "his pretension to the crown"; "the town still puts forward pretensions as a famous resort"
deportment, conduct, behaviour, behavior, demeanour, demeanor
n. (behavioral attributes) the way a person behaves toward other people
mien, presence, comportment, bearing
n. dignified manner or conduct
window dressing, facade
n. a showy misrepresentation intended to conceal something unpleasant
dissembling, feigning, pretence, pretense
n. pretending with intention to deceive
face, grimace
n. a contorted facial expression; "she made a grimace at the prospect"
test, exam, examination
n. a set of questions or exercises evaluating skill or knowledge; "when the test was stolen the professor had to make a new set of questions"
front line, front, battlefront
n. the line along which opposing armies face each other
n. a part of a person that is used to refer to a person; "he looked out at a roomful of faces"; "when he returned to work he met many new faces"
n. the totality of surrounding conditions; "he longed for the comfortable environment of his living room"
surroundings, milieu
n. the environmental condition
mood, climate
n. the prevailing psychological state; "the climate of opinion"; "the national mood had changed radically since the last election"
v. make or leave a mark on; "the scouts marked the trail"; "ash marked the believers' foreheads"
go for, hope
v. intend with some possibility of fulfilment; "I hope to have finished this work by tomorrow evening"
foreknow, previse, foresee, anticipate
v. realize beforehand
desire, trust, hope
v. expect and wish; "I trust you will behave better from now on"; "I hope she understands that she cannot expect a raise"
consider, study
v. give careful consideration to; "consider the possibility of moving"
counter, forestall, foresee, anticipate
v. act in advance of; deal with ahead of time
extend, continue, cover
v. span an interval of distance, space or time; "The war extended over five years"; "The period covered the turn of the century"; "My land extends over the hills on the horizon"; "This farm covers some 200 acres"; "The Archipelago continues for another 500 miles"

Synonyms (0)

There are no items for this category

Antonyms (1)

v. be in back of; "My garage backs their yard"


Looking is the act of intentionally focusing visual perception on someone or something, for the purpose of obtaining information, and possibly to convey interest or another sentiment. A large number of troponyms exist to describe variations of looking at things, with prominent examples including the verbs "stare, gaze, gape, gawp, gawk, goggle, glare, glimpse, glance, peek, peep, peer, squint, leer, gloat, and ogle".[1] Additional terms with nuanced meanings include viewing,[2] watching,[3] eyeing,[4][2] observing,[5] beholding,[4] and scanning.[4] Looking is both a physical act of directing the focus of the eyes, and a psychological act of interpreting what is seen and choosing whether to continue looking at it, or to look elsewhere. Where more than one person is involved, looking may lead to eye contact between those doing the looking, which raises further implications for the relationship established through that act.

Looking versus seeing

"Looking" and "seeing" are traditionally contrasted in a number of ways, although their usage often overlaps. Looking can be characterized as "the action precedent to seeing".[4] Any kind of looking or viewing actually implies "seeing" certain things within the range of view, while not "seeing" others, because they are unimportant at the moment. Thus, things that are within the range of view, but which are unimportant to the viewer, may be treated by the brain as if they are transparent, by being looked over, past, and around.[6] The distinction between "looking" and "seeing" has been compared to the distinction between hearing and listening, with one being a rote activity and the other requiring a conscious and thoughtful effort to understand what is being seen or heard.[7][8] Because of the breadth and flexibility of both words, different authors may reverse the relationship in contrasting them, with one suggesting that a person can "look at" something without truly "seeing" it, while another might suggest that a person might be "seeing" something, but not truly "look at" it.[9][10][11][12]Both arrangements suggest that the person is directing their vision towards the thing, but failing to give sufficient attention to notice specific characteristics or implications of what is in the visual field.

Looking in intense, pronounced, or prolonged ways

A number of troponyms exist to illustrate kinds of looking that are either intentionally or unconsciously done in intense, pronounced, or prolonged ways.

"Staring" is an intense form of looking in which the eyes of the person looking remain fixed on the subject for an extended period, and is generally considered rude.[1] "Gazing" has historically implied intensity, but not aggressiveness, and may imply "wonder, fascination, awe, or admiration".[13] In the twentieth century, however, sociologists began to use the term to suggest a power relationship between the person who is gazing and the subject of the gaze, with the former exercising an ability to define the latter.[2] By contrast, glaringdoes suggest aggressiveness and confrontation.[14] "Eyeing" implies looking at something with some feeling involved, such as desire or wariness.[4]

"Observing" implies looking at a specific object or area for a prolonged period specifically for purposes of observation, with the purpose of looking specifically being to obtain information about the thing being observed without necessarily either judging it or interfering with it.[5] "Watching" implies a similar prolonged focus, but can also imply looking at something in a distracted or absentminded manner, such as watching television.[3]

"Gaping" and "gawking" also indicate prolonged acts of looking, but suggest that the person doing the looking is so mentally distracted by the subject being observed that they become unaware of their own conduct. At the extreme, rubbernecking is the physical act of craning one's neck, performed in order to get a better view,[15] and has been described as a human trait that is associated with morbid curiosity.[16] "Ogling" is an "impertinent" form of staring "often in a way that indicates improper interest".[13]

Looking in quick, subtle, or hidden ways

A number of troponyms exist to illustrate kinds of looking that are either intentionally or unconsciously done in a quick, subtle, or hidden way.

"Glancing" and "glimpsing" are terms that imply looking at things in a subtle way, or seeing things very briefly before they move out of the range of vision. Although the two are often confused, a glance is more commonly a quick movement of the eye, whereas a glimpse is more often a result of the object being watched quickly moving out of sight.[17] "Scanning" suggests quickly looking over an area "to get a general impression", accomplished "by rapidly noting one point after another".[4] Glance appeared with its current meaning prior to 1450, from Old French glacer or glacier, a reference to the quick movement of slipping on ice.[17] Glimpse appeared as a noun with its current meaning in 1580, from Middle Englishglimsen, and as a verb in 1779, although it was originally associated with seeing bright or shiny things.[17] Playwright Eugene O'Neill was fond of using glance as a stage direction.[17]

"Peeking" and "peeping" suggest looking at something that one is not supposed to be looking at, and doing so in a way that is intended to hide the fact that the person doing the peeking or peeping is looking. There is "an illegitimacy associated with peeping".[18] An aspect of the story of Lady Godiva is Peeping Tom — a tailor who spied on Godiva as she rode naked through her town to protest taxation — and subsequently was punished. Peeping "is in close relation to 'Peeking' — one peeps typically at sexual matters and 'peeks' when one wants surreptitiously to know what something is without being seen".[18]


  1. a b Anne Poch Higueras and Isabel Verdaguer Clavera, "The rise of new meanings: A historical journey through English ways of looking at", in Javier E. Díaz Vera, ed., A Changing World of Words: Studies in English Historical Lexicography, Lexicology and Semantics, Volume 141 (2002), p. 563-572.
  2. a b c Madeline Harrison Caviness, Visualizing Women in the Middle Ages: Sight, Spectacle, and Scopic Economy (2001), p. 18.
  3. a b John Mowitt, Sounds: The Ambient Humanities (2015), p. 3.
  4. a b c d e f Charles John Smith, Synonyms Discriminated: A Complete Catalogue of Synonymous Words in the English Language (1871), p. 100-01.
  5. a b Ty Clement, Being Ourself (2009), p. 25.
  6. ^ Mark Changizi, The Vision Revolution: How the Latest Research Overturns Everything We Thought We Knew About Human Vision(2010), p. 75.
  7. ^ Jonathan Rée, I See a Voice: Deafness, Language and the Senses--A Philosophical History (1999). p. 52.
  8. ^ Frances Guerin, On Not Looking: The Paradox of Contemporary Visual Culture (2015), p. 35.
  9. ^ See, e.g., Damian Hine, David Carson, Innovative Methodologies in Enterprise Research (2007), p. 19: "Looking but not seeing; hearing but not listening; speaking but not communicating; touching but not feeling; smelling but not detecting. In many ways our senses play tricks on us".
  10. ^ Frances Guerin, On Not Looking: The Paradox of Contemporary Visual Culture (2015), p. 35: "[James] Elkins bemoans the tendency to not look, to look without seeing, and in its place proposes ways of looking".
  11. ^ R. G. Gordon, Personality (2005), p. 277: "Apart from the actual presence of the sensation, perception is markedly deficient or totally absent, the idiot sees but does not look, hears but does not listen, and feels touch and pain but does not refer them in space and time".
  12. ^ Evan Marshall, Eye Language: Understanding the Eloquent Eye(1983), p. 82: "In simple terms, the schizophrenic sees but does not look — contrary to the popular belief that schizophrenics do not see their surroundings".
  13. a b Pamela B. DeVinne, The Right Word III: A Concise Thesaurus(1990), p. 88.
  14. ^ Emil Coccaro, Aggression: Psychiatric Assessment and Treatment(2003), p. 98.
  15. ^ Partridge, Eric; Beale, Paul (1994). Fergusson, Rosalind, ed. Shorter Slang Dictionary. London: Routledge. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-415-08866-4.
  16. ^ Franklin, Daniel P. (2006). Politics and Film: The Political Culture of Film in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-7425-3808-5.
  17. a b c d Sol Steinmetz, Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning (2009), p. 84-85.
  18. a b Tracy B. Strong, "On Religion and the Strangeness of Speech", in Corey McCall, Tom Nurmi, Melville among the Philosophers (2017), p. 110.
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