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I was writing an essay wherein I encountered the need of writing the description of a mirror. The mirror I want to describe is a normal mirror which isn't coloured, the simple one found at our home. So should I use the words "white glass" or "transparent glass" or some other alternative?

Specifically to mention, it is actually a piece of writing wherein I am developing a story plot of the story in a page's length. That part is include as part of the essay itself. So I was writing a fictional story, when I thought of describing a scene where there is a mention of a vintage mirror. I know that a "mirror" is a "mirror", which is very much understandable. But when you write a story, especially a fantasy fiction one at that, you usually tend to describe things in a classy and fictional way. Hence I wanted to include a description of the mirror in a rather explicit manner.

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    "White" meaning "clear" is quite rare. Though people will certainly know what you mean if it is used in that way and there are some special places where it has become standard (eg in fixed phrases), the contexts where it is natural are rare. – Dan Sheppard Sep 4 at 13:14
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    @DanSheppard "Though people will certainly know what you mean" - I'm not convinced they would. "white glass" for most means something else (as the other answers have stated). And for a mirror that is specifically described as having "white glass", when "transparent" would ordinarily be assumed, I would have to assume it was literally "white" (to some degree). – MrWhite Sep 4 at 15:46
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    Adding my vote to any of the answers below that say, "colorless." If you can see through it, then it's "transparent." But glass can be both transparent, and colored. If it's transparent, and it doesn't change the color of the things that you see through it, then it's "colorless." If you told me you had a sheet of "white" glass, then I would not expect to be able to see through it (just like how I can't see through a sheet of white paper.) – Solomon Slow Sep 4 at 21:30
  • When I hear "white glass" I think of milk glass. Clear or transparent does not quite describe a mirror either since you are seeing a reflection. That would be more accurate for a window. If this essay is a creative writing piece, it might be more interesting to describe the mirror in terms of what it is reflecting. – mjjf Sep 5 at 5:37
  • "a normal mirror which isn't coloured, the simple one found at our home" - so, what is it? What makes it different? If you can tell us that, then you probably already have the answer – Mawg says reinstate Monica Sep 5 at 8:15
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I wouldn't use "white glass"; just look it up on Google, that means something made of glass but with a white tint, and you can't see through that kind of glass.

The glass in a household mirror is transparent, but since all glass in those kind of mirrors is transparent, you don't need to mention it. In fact, they all contain glass, so even saying "glass mirror" would be a little redundant.

If you do feel the need of describing it, "clear glass" (thanks @MichaelHarvey), "transparent glass" and "colourless/colorless glass" (depending on whether you write British or American English) are technically correct and should be understandable. The first option is used most often:

enter image description here

(source: Google Ngrams)

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    I would use 'clear glass'. – Michael Harvey Sep 3 at 6:11
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    I would use 'clear glass' too. If it was my answer, I would put 'clear glass' nearer the top of the answer, but it isn't, so I won't. – Strawberry Sep 3 at 16:21
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    Jails and prisons have “mirrors” of highly polished metal with no glass, which could be broken for use as a weapon. – StephenS Sep 3 at 16:53
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    There's a lot of silver or chrome mirrors around that don't use glass, and acrylic can be used to make a mirror. I use mirrored acrylic in projects when making stuff with a laser cuter. – computercarguy Sep 3 at 17:00
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    As a native speaker, if I wanted to describe the glass in a mirror I would normally use the term "silvered glass" - although I can't think of many occasions where it's likely to come up.I'd be much more likely to describe the frame, size, shape or dustiness of the mirror than its glass, unless there was a specific reason to draw attention to it. – Showsni Sep 4 at 11:12
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A mirror is usually referred to as "silvered glass", since it was often made by depositing silver nitrate on one side, as the Wikipedia entry describes.

"White glass" would (to me) be more an antique glass called "milk glass", because it's milky white. "Transparent glass" is, well, a window.

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  • Hi, welcome, please take the tour. – Davo Sep 3 at 15:19
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    Although glass mirrors are typically made from silvered glass (which has metallic silver, not silver nitrate, deposited on it), it is extremely rare for such mirrors to be referred to as silvered glass in English. They are usually just called "mirrors", or maybe "glass mirrors" if one wants to be specific. Note that there are other kinds of mirrors, and that silvered glass is also used to make objects whose primary purposes are not to serve as mirrors. – John Bollinger Sep 4 at 4:56
  • White glass could also be stained glass where a white stain was used. – Joshua Sep 4 at 17:02
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A normal everyday mirror that isn't colored is just a "mirror". There's no need to specify that it DOESN'T have an unusual quality.

While "white glass" would mean translucent milky glass, and window glass could be called "clear glass", a "clear glass mirror" is a confusing contradiction in terms. A mirror isn't clear, it's a mirror.

I'm having a hard time understanding what kind of phrase you're building where you need to describe a mirror as something other than a mirror.

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  • Specifically to mention, it is actually a piece of writing wherein I am developing a story plot of the story in a page's length. So I was writing a fictional story, I thought of describing a scene where there is a mention of a mirror. I know that a "mirror" is a "mirror", which is very much understandable. But when you write a story especially a fantasy fiction one at that, you usually tend to describe things in a classy way. Hence I wanted to include a description of the mirror in an rather explicit manner. – Dhanishtha Ghosh Sep 7 at 14:24
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"Frosted glass" is the most common term normally used for glass with some opacity. Some glass manufacturers use other terms such as "obscure glass".

"Transparent glass" isn't a term I've ever heard. It sounds like a tautology - transparent glass is just glass! But if you were trying to differentiate between normal glass and frosted glass, you might say "clear glass".

Glass which acts as a mirror is called "mirror glass", or perhaps "mirrored glass". A "one-way mirror" is a pane of glass which is only reflective one-way. If you wanted to describe glass which had some mirror properties but still had some degree of transparency you might describe it as "reflective glass".

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    Strictly speaking, mirrors are not 'frosted' glass. When talking about glass 'frosted' refers specifically to a rough matte or semi-matte finish achieved through either etching or sandblasting. Also, see milk glass for one of the best examples of glass that is not transparent (and sometimes not even translucent). – Austin Hemmelgarn Sep 3 at 19:48
  • @AustinHemmelgarn I didn't say they were. But they aren't "white" either. I thought I'd cover all bases, as the OP isn't completely clear (!) what they are trying to describe. – Astralbee Sep 4 at 8:07
  • @Astralbee I have edited the question. Hope that helps. – Dhanishtha Ghosh Sep 7 at 14:33
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First of all, as others have observed, "white glass" is definitely wrong. That suggests glass that has been colored or painted white.

It is also confusing to say something like "we bought a clear glass mirror" or "on the wall was a clear glass mirror". I would wonder if it was a special mirror that you could see through or something.

Really, the proper description probably depends on context. What other kinds of mirror is this mirror being contrasted with? Ordinarily, if you just say "a mirror", people assume you mean an ordinary mirror. If you have to be more clear, you might say "an ordinary mirror, like you would find at home."

Rereading your question, if this mirror is being contrasted with ones that are colored, I think the term "colorless" would work well. Perhaps "ordinary colorless mirror" just to emphasize that this is just like the ones people see every day.

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'Transparent colorless glass in front of a silver reflective material.'

The term 'white glass' evokes thoughts of either milk glass or frosted glass, typically implying that the glass is question is neither colorless nor entirely transparent.

The term 'transparent glass' by itself is ambiguous in that something can be colored but sufficiently clear to be considered transparent. Some varieties uranium glass and cranberry glass provide some particularly visually striking examples of colored but transparent glass (note that the cranberry glass in that Wikipedia article is actually translucent not transparent, but this is due to the complex shapes of the pieces and not the color (cranberry glass is rather expensive, so it's more common to see complicated shapes made from it which tend to result in it not being truly transparent)).

Combining 'transparent' with 'colorless' accurately describes the glass found in most mirrors that use a layer of glass to protect the reflective material, though in more modern mirrors it may be an acrylic or polycarbonate layer instead of glass (resulting in a less expensive mirror, but you have to be more careful about how you clean it)

The layer of reflective material behind the glass is best described in almost all house mirrors as 'silvery', which refers to a near colorless grey or white material with a very high reflectance. Traditionally this would have actually been a very thin layer of silver, though these days aluminum or a highly reflective polymer such as BoPET is much more common because it's a lot less expensive (and technically more reflective).

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  • The uranium glass would be considered transparent, but the cranberry glass is translucent. Even clear glass that distorts light enough is considered translucent rather than transparent. grammarist.com/usage/translucent-transparent – computercarguy Sep 3 at 17:05
  • @computercarguy The exact pictures on the Wikipedia article I linked are indeed translucent but not transparent. However, that does not mean you can't have transparent cranberry glass (it's just not as common as the super ornate pieces that distort light because of their shape, because cranberry glass is rather expensive to begin with). Similarly, it's perfectly possible to have translucent but non-transparent uranium glass, it also just comes down to the finish, color intensity, and shape of the piece. – Austin Hemmelgarn Sep 3 at 18:54
  • Good to know, but this would have been good info for the answer. Most people won't have that kind of background info and would make incorrect assumptions because of it. Since we are on ELL, we can't make assumptions on people's grasp of the language, let alone their art or DIY skills. – computercarguy Sep 3 at 19:08
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    @computercarguy Good point that I hadn't thought of, I've updated the answer to comment on this now. – Austin Hemmelgarn Sep 3 at 19:44
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The mirror I want to describe is a normal mirror which isn't coloured, the simple one found at our home.

A plain [glass] mirror, unframed mirror or frameless mirror I suspect is what the OP is asking about. In all of the above, the mirror is flushed with the wall, so a frame is unnecessary.

enter image description hereenter image description here

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As mirrors age the silver at the back erodes and loses reflectiveness, which is referred to as clouding. So a mirror which is functioning perfectly could also be referred to as unclouded, if you are emphasising that it is producing a good reflection.

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  • That sounds really wonderful. Might give it a go. Thanks! – Dhanishtha Ghosh Sep 7 at 14:31

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