33

It's not under any influence of alcohol! It's just a gesture. Eyes are half closed with creases on the forehead and some tension in the muscles around the eyes. Such expressions are made when you doubt something or find something suspicious.

I'm trying a lot but not finding even a single image! Why? Because I don't know what it is called!

  • 1
    "Droopy" eyes refer to someone who is sleepy – Travis Bear Apr 5 '18 at 22:33
47

In detective stories, you'll often read the expression

he narrowed his eyes

enter image description here

If your eyes narrow or if you narrow your eyes, you almost close them, for example because you are angry or because you are trying to concentrate on something.

More often than not, when someone is thinking deeply, English speakers will focus on the creases in the forehead, which is called a frown

When someone frowns, their eyebrows become drawn together, because they are annoyed, worried, or puzzled, or because they are concentrating.

  • 2
    I'd like to point out that I was writing my answer when Marcus edited his answer (within the five-minute time limit) and added "narrow". I would not have posted a duplicate answer but for that. – Mari-Lou A Apr 5 '18 at 12:15
  • 8
    This is a prime example of how understanding can differ even between native speakers. I'm a middle aged native speaker of AmE, and I've always understood the word "frown" to describe the position of the mouth, not the eyebrows. – No U Apr 5 '18 at 19:18
  • 1
    @TKK I think you'll find that dictionaries were around well before emojis and emoticons. It's a bit difficult to draw a frowning expression on a smiley without making it look like it's angry, or perplexed. I'm quite surprised that a number of users did not know that the frown is expressed principally by the brow. – Mari-Lou A Apr 5 '18 at 21:29
  • 3
    @TKK & Deolater - The second listed meaning on Wiktionary is the one you and I (and probably many others) most expected to see, I think: A facial expression in which the corners of the mouth are pointed down. There's a 1911 quote there, too, illustrating that the usage of frown with a focus on the mouth isn't all that newfangled. – J.R. Apr 6 '18 at 14:12
  • 1
    @J.R. Yes, that's exactly (and only) what the word "frown" means to me. – No U Apr 6 '18 at 16:11
46

Perhaps the word you are looking for is to squint but it does not imply that you doubt something, you squint because you want to look at something with your eyes partly closed in order to see better (LDOCE 5th version).

But here's an alternative for squint:

to narrow one's eyes - to partly close them, especially to show that you do not trust someone

  • 1
    Should just mention that (a) squint also means cross-eyed, which can lead to ambiguity. – peterG Apr 5 '18 at 13:52
  • 1
    Good answer. Very interesting because "squint" more strongly implies muscle tension IMHO. But you're right that "to narrow one's eyes" more strongly implies doubt. I guess there's not an easy word to encompass "squinting with doubt", or "tensely narrowing one's eyes", and those phrases sound odd. To "furrow one's brow" has both implications, but doesn't mention the eyes being half closed. – Darren Ringer Apr 5 '18 at 15:42
  • I also squint when looking at something close to the sun, because looking at it with my eyes fully open hurts. – Arthur Apr 6 '18 at 8:00
24

One oft-used verb for this is squint:

squint (v.) To look with the eyes partly closed, as in bright sunlight, or as a threatening gesture; to look askance, as in disapproval.

The word is often used in conjunction with suspicion. A Google Books search yielded a heap of entries with squint suspiciously, such as:

  • The village, Burns thought, had the look of a distrustful old man squinting suspiciously at all outsiders.

  • People from the parking lot at the front of the store began wandering over, staring or squinting suspiciously.

  • When he left the head table, he cast a squinting, suspicious gaze around the arena.

  • His eyes were small wet holes pressed between a couple dozen layers of wrinkles, probably from a lifetime of squinting suspiciously at people.

  • Till date 'squint' was crossed eyes to me...blame my profession as a doctor! :( +1 because I did not know this before! – Maulik V Apr 6 '18 at 3:54
  • 1
    @MaulikV - Indeed, here in the UK, "squint" as a noun almost never means narrowed eyes (though Collins says the verb can; I've never heard anyone use the verb here), it refers to eyes that look different directions. Whereas in the States, it doesn't have that different-directions meaning as a noun. BrE "inward squint" = AmE "cross-eyed", BrE "outward squint" = AmE "wall-eyed". collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/squint – T.J. Crowder Apr 9 '18 at 14:56
8

I believe you mean that look that Fry had when he was in doubt his friend Bender was impersonated by someone else:

enter image description here

This is indeed squinting, and it is a recognisable expression of suspicion in some cultures, but not universally. In general, squinting means just that:

to look at someone or something with one or both eyes partly closed in an attempt to see more clearly or as a reaction to strong light.

  • @Andrew It actually is squinting, which is defined as simply "the action of looking at something with partially closed eyes". It's just a muscle movement, the reason why you're doing it is irrelevant. By your logic, doing this action in a dark room with nothing to doubt would be neither a squint nor a narrowing of the eyes, so what would you call it? – Nuclear Wang Apr 5 '18 at 19:11
8

There are some good answers here already, but another couple of terms that come to mind are furrowing one's brow or knitting one's [eye]brow[s]. Furrowing describes an expression where you create wrinkles on your forehead/brow (as one creates furrows in the ground when plowing it) either by raising your eyebrows or tensing the muscles around the eyes in the way you describe. Knitting one's brows refers more specifically to pulling your eyebrows together, which also produces the effect you described.

Edit: I just found an interesting list of terms/expressions describing various facial expressions: https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/thesaurus-category/american/to-make-a-particular-facial-expression

7

Similar facial expression for a scowl, but scowl has slightly more angry connotation.

scowl (v.) to look at someone or something in a way that shows anger or disapproval

scowl (n.) an expression on someone's face that shows anger or disapproval

enter image description here

  • 2
    also glare - A fierce, piercing look or stare – jchook Apr 5 '18 at 21:05
  • 1
    +1 for this...it's new to me. A good word to describe that particular mood. – Maulik V Apr 6 '18 at 3:57
5

Not mentioned so far: to glower.

glower (v): Have an angry or sullen look on one's face; scowl.

Glower is appropriate if you narrow your eyes in anger or threat. As an illustration of the difference between looking sleepy, squinting, and glowering, see this clip from the movie Get Shorty

enter image description here

3

There are some kinds of half-shut eyes, here are some of them:

1) While a person is very tired and he is about to sleep, or alternatively before death or if having a structure of such eyes. It can be called simply "half-shut eyes" or "half closed eyes"

I saw his half-shut eyes. (reference)

N.B. Sometimes it may be called: piggy-eyed or "pink eye".

2) While suspecting in something or having a concern or a thought about something: half-shut eyelids or "half closed eyes".

"A woman at the information desk with half-shut eyelids managed to tell me that the KLM flight was delayed with no ETA." (reference)

The officer looked at him narrowly through half-closed eyes... (reference)

3) While a person want to improve his eyesight (by changing the shape of our eye and letting in a limited amount of light that is more easily focused) : squint or less common blink (see definition No.1)

Why can people see more clearly when they squint their eyes? (reference)

4) While conveying a glance: "bedroom eyes"

Marilyn Monroe's signature look was her bedroom eyes. (reference)

That half-closed 'bedroom eyes' look actually makes women think you are SHIFTY, not sexy. (reference)

5) Pathological disability to close the eyes completely (for example due to a malfunction in a facial nerve): Lagophthalmos (or Nocturnal lagophthalmos if it is at night)

He has Lagophthalmos. He can't close his eyes completely.

So in the end of the day, the choice depends on context. But in your case I would consider the option No.2 here.

  • I like many of these, especially the Marilyn Monroe reference. That look is purely in the eyelids: no brow, forehead or mouth movement at all. Another expression for that is "hooded eyes". If you Google "She looked at him with hooded eyes" (including the quotes), you'll find nearly 4,000 references – John Burger Apr 8 '18 at 4:13
-1

I think this is what you are looking for:

Narrow your eyes: to squeeze the eyelids closer together.

Squint: look at someone or something with one or both eyes partly closed in an attempt to see more clearly or as a reaction to strong light.

Cock your eye:glance in a quizzical or knowing manner with a raised eyebrow.

Squinch:to press together the features of the face.

Be askance:to look at or think about someone or something with doubt, disapproval, or no trust.

Screw your eyes:to tighten the muscles of (the face or eyes).

  • "Squinch in exasperation" is my suggestion – herself Apr 5 '18 at 19:18
  • 1
    Can you provide definitions for these, preferably showing the differences between them so that it's possible to choose the most appropriate one for the context? Thanks. – Toby Speight Apr 5 '18 at 20:46
  • Narrow your eyes:to squeeze the eyelids closer together. – William Pennanti Apr 6 '18 at 8:41
  • Squint:look at someone or something with one or both eyes partly closed in an attempt to see more clearly or as a reaction to strong light. – William Pennanti Apr 6 '18 at 8:43
  • 1
    Cock your eye:glance in a quizzical or knowing manner with a raised eyebrow. – William Pennanti Apr 6 '18 at 8:44

protected by J.R. Apr 5 '18 at 19:50

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.