21 ways to describe looking at someone in writing

“Underneath her mother’s disapproving glare”, I had read in one of Meg Jay’s books about two nights after having had this topic in mind. The book? The Defining Decade is something I highly recommend to every twentysomething out there. 

Anyway, it is awe-inspiring that I came across this quite timely as it propelled me toward researching more into this topic for you and I who write. 

While in theory, the phenomenon of not being able to describe a character’s look at another character may seem trivial, we understand that in practice, it can be so frustrating. The reason for this piece. 

Ways to describe looking at someone in writing

The phrase disapproving glare is one of the various ways to describe looking at someone in writing, but that is just a mite—there are a thousand and one other ways to say the same, and at least 21 of them shall be highlighted here, head-on. 

1. Piercing gaze

If you or someone else has the metaphorical sensation of being burnt by somebody’s look, you can describe such as a piercing gaze. 

For example, “This time, I avoided his prolonged piercing gaze by…” 

2. Fiery Look

Putting the keywords into consideration, a fiery look should be characterized by burning, hot, fear, emotion, and some degree of intemperateness. This suggests that a fiery look is a parent qualifier to the aforementioned piercing gaze. 

21 ways to describe looking at someone in writing

For example: “You should have seen the fiery look that frightened Amanda to death.” 

3. Mesmerizing Gaze

There is no need for any special comment on how to use this, knowing full well you’re familiar with the keyword. (This shall be the case with several other items on this list) 

For example: “She couldn’t help but shy away from her father’s mesmerizing gaze/look/[sometimes eyes] at the way she twisted.” 

4. A glazed look

As gathered from sources including the Cambridge Dictionary, a glazed look equates to a dull or bored one from someone especially because they are tired and could not help to look more active. 

For example: “He said he would, but his glazed look after my presentation signalled that he wouldn’t consider me for the job.”

5. Inspect

Inspect is a commonplace word used to describe look but I understand that you might fear that when used for humans, it is not without restrictions. You’re right only that now what should restrict you is one thing: whether you intend the look to determine something. 

For example: “The general inspected the troops…” [Wiktionary]

6. Eye contact

The noun eye contact is uncountable, and it means looking in the eyes. The process involves two pairs of eyes. 

For example: “We were always making eye contact

7. Rub raw eyes

I have also come to learn that some writers describe looking at someone as rubbing raw eyes on that person. This makes sense and can be taken for eye contact too. What isn’t so clear here is whether the word ‘raw’ in this phrase signifies anything particularly—as in a cold look or so. But let’s try our hand at an example. 

21 ways to describe looking at someone in writing

For example: “We rubbed raw eyes after the event that night.” 

8. Look transfixed

To look transfixed is to look surprised, mesmerized, or shocked. 

For example: “I told you everyone who saw it would look transfixed.” or “He was literally looking at you transfixed.” Both words can be separated in a statement so that you have it this way: ‘looktransfixed’

9. Stare

A stare is a fixed look—one I suppose you’re familiar with. It is both a noun and a verb. 

For example: “(Verb) He stared at me.” 

“(Noun) The stares of astonished passengers…” [Wiktionary] 

10. Peer crisply/inspectively

Readers should be familiar with the concepts of peer and inspectively. So we give an example of peering crisply

For example: “You had peered crisply into every hole at the search scene.” 

11. A poisonous look

This statement is more of a figurative expression. It can connote a disapproving look too, take it for such words as deafening silence, in this context. 

For example: “His look was poisonous/He gave a poisonous look.”

12. Eyes met

We shall equate this with eye contact

For example: “My eyes met with hers.” 

13. Narrow one’s eyes

This is just another word for some kind of disapproving looks. It shares or can share meaning with a poisonous look, glazed look, piercing gaze, and fiery look. The process is more like squinting—having to do with scrunching up one’s eyes, as WordHippo put it. 

For example: “Her eyes narrow at this comparison.” [Collins Dictionary]

14. Risk a peek

Use this when a character has had anxiety and contemplations on whether to look at someone—causing them to attempt a peep—looking only partly with the eyes about half closed. 

For example: “Adam risked a peek when he felt she must have looked away.” 

15. A questioning look

This denotes looking suspicious. 

For example: “I knew he was a suspect because, at first sight, the robber wore a questioning look.” 

16. Fixed expression

In English Grammar, we view fixed expressions as a group of words with defined or unchanging interpretations. But in this context, it is the act of looking boringly and continuously at something or someone. It is synonymous with other expressions such as look/gaze fixedly

21 ways to describe looking at someone in writing

For example: “It was nothing short of a fixed expression if you noticed.”

17. Screw one’s eyes

Here is another statement that shares meaning with words like inspect, in the sense that they are basically used to describe a close examination of something.

This should, however, not be mistaken for screwing up one’s face or eyes, which is more of a facial expression than a look. Screwing one’s eyes is the same as rolling one’s eyes. 

For example: “I paid close attention to you and found that you screwed your eyes around her God-given back.” 

Read Also: 30 Synonyms for prose

18. His/her eyes flickered

You look at someone quickly—as though risking a peek—if your eyes flickered toward them. It is equally important to bear in mind that flicker implies unsteadiness

For example: “He was so shocked to find her there that his eyes flickered a great deal over her.” 

19. Stare brazenly

A brazen stare from a person suggests that they look confidently or audaciously at someone else. 

For example: “You stare brazenly to intimidate someone.” 

20. A wounded look

A wounded look, also sometimes a wounded expression, is that state of the face that shows how offended one is at someone/something else. It suggests an angry look. 

For example: “Her wounded look penetrated his heart with contrite.” 

21. Fierce glint/glare

A fierce glint or glare, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary, is an angry look (long or short). 

For example: “When I made to utter it, he gave me a fierce glare.” 

With this, writers should not be stuck when they are to describe looking at someone in writing.

Conclusively, I hope these words help us get better at writing in a way. 

I’m glad you stayed till the end. If you have anything to say about what has been written here, do well to make your contribution using the comment below. 

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