Eye Descriptions – A Peek Into A Character’s Psyche

Sharla's Photo

Sharla’s Photo

Why are eye descriptions so important? Because they show more that just physical description. They are a type of emotional body language that gives the reader a peek into the character’s psyche.

Physical Eye Descriptions: Colors and Eye Shape

Eye color

A character’s eye color helps the reader visualize character appearance. It’s okay to mention the color more than once to remind readers what characters look like but don’t hit them over the head with it.

Using eye color terms that say something about the character or what they’re thinking is so much more interesting then basic statements of color – blue, brown, green etc.

  • Eyes like silver lightning: sharp, doesn’t miss a thing, spirited, quick-witted
  • Gunmetal eyes: sounds like a lethal male, perhaps emotionless
  • Glacial blue: Can suggest nationality, or cold personality, angry expression
  • Milk chocolate eyes: sounds yummy, soft, warm
  • Chips of emerald ice: sharp, cold heated
  • Faded azure lace: an older person with blue eyes, lace suggests a woman, perhaps homey

Here’s a great eye color list that will help you describe “who” your character is. This is one of the best I’ve seen to date and includes pictures.

Want to know the most common and rare eye colors in the world? The following are listed from most common to least.

  • Brown
  • Hazel
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Silver
  • Amber and Black [rank about even according to which resource you’re looking at]
  • Red or Pink [mostly in albinos]

Just for fun here’s a website that tells you the meaning of the color of your eyes.

Besides using eye color as a facial feature it can sometimes be used to identify who is speaking especially if the color distinctive.

Blue eyes widened and she threw up both hands. “Now hold on a minute.”
Her amber cat eyes narrowed. “xxxx”

Eye Appearance

 Eye appearance/shape isn’t too difficult to write but be creative with the basics shown below. ALEC VERY NICE IMG_0528

  • round
  • almond
  • bug-eyed
  • beady
  • sloe-eyed
  • hooded
  • upturned/cat
  • downturned

We might also include how the eyes are placed on the face:

  • close-set
  • deep-set
  • monolid
  • protruding

Certain eye conditions or disorders can affect eye appearance and are excellent descriptors. You may not want to use the scientific terms but the descriptions of the terms are also useful. See my list below.

Appearance also includes emotional expression and often involves the eyebrows.

Appearance frequently blurs lines with eye movement and more often than not demonstrates emotions and personality. You’ll see examples of this in the lists below.

Eye Movement

Expressing eye movement can be tricky! Don’t make the following mistake.

Her eyes traveled/fell down the stairs where he stood.

Really? The eyeballs rolled down the steps? Believe it or not, this is a common mistake. Words like “gaze,” “visage,” “glance,” can fix the problem.

Tiresome descriptors for eye movement are the over-used look, looked and looking. If our eyes are open they are looking and it really doesn’t say much more than that. There’s nothing wrong with using look but never varying with more explicit substitutes is boring and causes echoes.


  • gaze
  • glance
  • surveyed
  • glared
  • raked
  • searched
  • watched
  • scanned

You’ll find lots of these in the lists below. Notice, too, that some have very specific connotations.

Eyebrows are very much a part of eye movement and play an important part in expressing emotion. Blinking eyelashes show emotion too but at the risk of sounding silly, don’t overuse this one.

And now for my lists: These include eye movement, appearance/expression, disorders and conditions, eye parts and types of eyeglasses.

Eye Movement

Burned fanatically
Devoured her beauty
Eyes implored
A look designed to peel his hide
Almond shaped
Appraising glance
Astute gaze
Avid eyes attested to his quick wit
Beady rat eyes
Blazed like torches
Boomerang brows like Ayatollah Khomeini’s
Bright with age
Bulging with fright
Chaotic, helter-skelter eyebrow—like his mind, unsystematic and fickle
Commanding visage
Crudely insulting stare
Deep set beneath heavy black brows
Disapproval gleamed in her eyes
Dissatisfaction plowed his brow
Disturbing smoke-hued
Elliptical eyes with heavy lids
Eyebrows like checkmarks
Eyes all gooey with
Eyes like a shark
Feline eyes
Flashed with gaiety/anger etc
Flat black, dispassionate as bullets
Frankly assessing
Get a load of those blinkers
Gleam of deviltry

Glittering with
Green flinty rocks
Hallows of madness
Hard as nails
Heart-stopping eyes
Held hostage by his eyes
Intent and unwavering/riveted
Irritated visage
Liquid pools of
Luminous glow of happiness
Mellow as the sky at sunset
Narrowed to slits
Nebulous gaze / unreadable
New moon-shaped
Penetrating blue of his eyes
Possessed the power to make her
Rheumy old eyes
Sharp with intelligence
Slits for eyes
Sliver of emotion in those cool eyes
Sloped down at the corners like a sad pup
Small evil eyes
Sneaky close-set eyes
So tired his eyeballs seemed to sag out
Steeply arched brows
Sunken in the head
Tears of remorse flooded
The dark mystery of his eyes
Triangular brows/always surprised
Twenty-twenty vision
Veiled expression of
Visionary eyes
Visual exploration of
Watery eyes
Where did you get those peepers
Wild and frightened
Wore spectacles/glasses/winkers

Eye Disorders and Conditions
[You might like this website]

Astigmatism: causes fuzzy or blurry vision due to irregular curve in eye lens or cornea.

Gimlet-eyed: sharp and piercing

Goggle-eyed: bulging, rolling or staring

Megalophthalmic: unusually large eyes, often a congenital condition-think goldfish

Strabismaic: eyes are not properly aligned. Sometimes Cross-eyed or walleyed

Walleyed: eyes diverging instead of focusing simultaneously on the same point; eyes turned outward away from nose; also used to define a wild irrational staring, glare or fierce look

Cross-eyed: converging strabismus, eyes turning toward the nose

Diplopia: double vision

Cataract: opacity of the lens of the eye, cloudy

Glaucoma: hardening of the eyeball, often resulting in poor vision or blindness

Leucoma: disease of the eye in which the cornea becomes white and opaque

Pinkeye: highly contagious form of conjunctivitis-eye appears rimmed in pink, bloodshot, often swelled and sometimes full of pus.

Nystagmic: eyeballs moving rapidly and involuntarily

Ablepsia: lack of sight; blindness

Farsightedness: ability to see objects at a distance more clearly than close objects

Nearsighedness:(shortsightedness, myopia) see objects only at close distances

Eye Parts

Cornea: transparent covering of the iris that produces refraction needed to focus image on retinea

Eye socket: hollow of bone in face holding eyeball

Eyeball: globe of the eye

Iris: colored circular muscle in front of eye that controls amount of light that enters the eye

Retina: inner layer of the eye wall composed of nervous tissue stimulated by light to send impulses to the brain.

Optic nerve: nerve that sends sight impulses from the eye to the brain

Pupil: round contractile aperture in iris of eye, regulating light into the eye

Vitreous humor: jelly-like material that fills eyeball and forms its shape

Eye lashes: hair around the eyes

Eye Corrections
[A good overview of modern lenses]

Note: Although it’s not exactly known when eyeglasses were first invented, they appear in a 1352 painting.

Aviator: sunglasses with oversized lenses; associated with pilots

Ben Franklins: glasses with small ellipitcal, octagonal or oblong lenses worn on the middle of the nose; in slang often referred to as granny glasses

Bifocals: glasses having split lenses to improve both near and farsightedness

Contact lenses: lenses worn directly on the eye

Eyeglasses or spectacles or winkers: worn to correct vision; lenses set in frames that hook behind the ears

Horn-rimmed: glasses with dark or mottled brown frames; frames are usually heavy

Monocle:single lens used over eye for correction

Lorgnettte: eyeglasses on a long handle

Lorgnon: (French – pince-nez) eyeglasses that clip onto the nose; framless, circular lenses that set on the bridge of the nose

Loupe: magnifying glass generally held in the eye and used by jewlers






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2 Responses to Eye Descriptions – A Peek Into A Character’s Psyche

  1. Lyn Horner says:

    Another excellent list of descriptors, Sharla! It’s a keeper!

  2. sharla says:

    Thanks Lyn!

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