25+ Ways of Looking & Seeing

25+ Ways of Looking & Seeing

“For she had eyes and chose me.”
William Shakespeare, Othello

To look is to direct your eyes towards someone or something so that you can see them, and there are so many ways to do that! How you look at somebody or something reflects your feelings and attitude to that person or thing. Read on to learn synonyms for look and see


I’m addicted to designed labels! I spend hours gazing at photos in fashion magazines, and I can’t walk past a designer shop without eyeing up the handbags and shoes in the window. I can’t stand fake designer goods – in fact, if you show me two handbags, one a designer and one a fake, I can usually spot the fake without even picking it up. I think about my clothes a lot, and I like to look perfect. I always glance at my reflection in shop windows as I go past. Most of my friends wear casual clothes, so when I go out people stare at me because I look different. But I don’t care. I like to be noticed and I know that as soon as they catch sight of my designer mobile phone, they’ll be jealous.

(from “New Inside Out Upper-Intermediate Student’s Book”)

  • to gaze – to look at someone or something for a long time, for example because they are attractive or interesting, or because you are thinking of something else
  • to eye something up (British, informal) – to closely inspect something in which one is interested. If someone eyes you up, they look at you in a way that shows they consider you attractive and sexy.
  • to spot – to notice someone or something
  • to glance – to look somewhere quickly and then look away
  • to stare – to look at someone or something very directly for a long time
  • to notice – to become conscious of someone or something by seeing (hearing, or feeling) them
  • to catch sight of something – to see something briefly = to glimpse something

One of my roles as a police officer is to carry out surveillance on criminal activity. Fortunately, I have perfect eyesight and excellent powers of observation. As part of the investigation into Lou Green’s case, I was sent to keep watch on his house. I parked nearby and sat unobtrusively (= not attracting attention) in the passenger seat, wearing a disguise so that if Green walked by and glanced at me, he wouldn’t recognize me.

At 22:30, Green drove up to the fort door and quickly disappeared inside. I was sure he hadn’t noticed my car or spotted anything unusual. I could just make out his movements through the curtains. At 22:55, he stared out of the window, clearly on the lookout for someone. Suddenly, a taxi arrived, and Green moved out of sight. I caught a glimpse of his visitor entering the house, with what looked like a violin case…

(from “Oxford Learner’s Pocket Word Skills”)

  • To surveille/surveil somebody /sə(r)ˈveɪl– to watch people (or places) secretly to find out what they are doing = to keep somebody under surveillance /sə(r)ˈveɪləns/
  • To keep watch on somebody (or something) – to watch somebody carefully so that you are ready to act if necessary
  • To observe – to notice someone doing something, or to notice something happening
  • To make out something (or somebody) – to see (hear or understand) someone or something with difficulty
  • To be on the lookout for something/somebody – to be watching carefully in order to find, obtain, or avoid someone or something
  • To catch a glimpse of something/somebody = to glimpse something/somebody


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  • To scan – to look at something very carefully, because you hope or expect to see a particular person or thing: 1) Scan the horizon/coast. 2) He scanned her face but there were no signs of emotion.
  • To contemplate (literary language) – to look at something or someone for a long time: 1) He is contemplating the sunset. 2) He stood contemplating his image in the mirror.
  • To scrutinizeexamine or inspect closely and thoroughly: 1) You must scrutinize the small print. 2) Her purpose was to scrutinize his features to see if he was an honest man.
  • To peek – to look at something quickly, especially secretly or from behind something: 1) She is peeking through the blinds. 2) He peeked carefully from behind the door.
  • To squint – to close your eyes slightly and try to see something, either because of a bright light or because your eyes do not work very well: 1) The bright sunlight is making me squint. 2) He squinted at her in the sun. If you squint, you screw up your eyes, or narrow your eyes.
  • To peer – to look very carefully, especially because something is difficult to see: 1) He is peering at the neighbors. 2) Mary peered at her watch.
  • To gape – to look at something or someone with your mouth open because you are very surprised: 1) She’s gaping at her son. 2) His secretary stopped taking notes to gape at me. To goggle has a similar meaning, but your mouth doesn’t have to be open, though you look with your eyes wide open: He goggled in bewilderment. If you gawk, you stare openly and stupidly: Tens of thousands came to gawk.

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