I found the following sentence in an article:

Chaaya becomes very happy when she finds that her son is still alive. Her eyes well up.

What is the meaning of "eyes well up"? I tried to check this in the Oxford dictionary, but there I found a close meaning:

well up no object, with adverbial (of a liquid) rise up to the surface and spill or be about to spill.

‘tears were beginning to well up in her eyes’

But I nowhere found "eyes well up" in any of these 3 dictionaries: Oxford, Cambridge, Merriam-webster. I also checked this through Google ngram and found that this is commonly used nowadays. I am not able to understand whether this combination of words "eyes well up" has any meaning?

  • Here "eye" as a subject doesn't appear appropriate. It should be "tears well up" Jan 9, 2018 at 12:24
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    Eyes filled with tears as a (dug) well fills with water, or as any water source below ground rises to the surface.
    – TimR
    Jan 9, 2018 at 13:08
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    @abhijeetpathak "tears welled up in his eyes" is also appropriate. The phrase "her eyes welled up (with tears)" is a bit more idiomatic but still appropriate. Jan 9, 2018 at 13:11

1 Answer 1


It means that a person's eyes are filling up with tears, and the tears are about to spill out. In other words, the person is about to cry.

"Eyes tear up" has the same meaning, but it's not as flowery.

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