Tag Archives: word choices

Look vs. Gaze

While tutoring my student in reading, we talk about the words used in the selection. He intercepts when he doesn’t know the meaning of a word, and we look the word up in the dictionary, which then leads to demonstrations and discussions.

The last inquiry was about the word “gaze”. After defining the word as “to look intently and steadily”, I gave him a demonstration with my eyes by steadying my eyes on an object for more than a “look”. We know the “look” when we simply scan our eyes over objects to find whatever it is we are looking for or at, but, really, are we looking, peering, gazing, or glancing? Maybe we are taking a glimpse to sum up the whole, or maybe we want to invoke a negative connotation and stare, or worse, glare.

Each of these words require the same sense of eyesight, but each word has a slightly different meaning that we have learned over the years and now take for granted. Sometimes, that meaning is misunderstood and that wrong word choice leads to problems between people. And sometimes, if a person has not been exposed to the varying ways of using the word “look” and understanding its synonyms, the simple word “look” is taken for a “stare” or a “glare” and becomes a negative.

What’s the difference — we start with a glimpse (a brief view) or a glance (a sudden, brief view) which turns into a look (directing attention to) that turns into a peer (to see more clearly) that turns into a gaze (a steady look) that could turn into a stare (a steady, intent look). Add anger or wanting to make a point with someone and you have that dreaded “glare” (to stare fiercely or angrily).

As you have read this, which form of “look” did you employ — did you glimpse, glance, look, peer, or gaze? If you are tired, you may have stared at the page, but hopefully, you did not “glare” at my words.

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