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verb (used without object)
  1. to look with a sideways or oblique glance, especially suggestive of lascivious interest or sly and malicious intention: I can't concentrate with you leering at me.
  1. a lascivious or sly look.

Origin of leer1

1520–30; perhaps v. use of obsolete leer cheek (Middle English leor, Old English hlēor; cognate with Old Norse hlȳr (plural))
Related formsleer·ing·ly, adverb


adjective British Dialect.
  1. having no burden or load.
  2. faint for lack of food; hungry.

Origin of leer2

before 1050; Middle English lere, Old English gelǣr; cognate with German leer empty


  1. lehr.


  1. protective shelter: The lee of the rock gave us some protection against the storm.
  2. the side or part that is sheltered or turned away from the wind: We erected our huts under the lee of the mountain.
  3. Chiefly Nautical. the quarter or region toward which the wind blows.
  1. pertaining to, situated in, or moving toward the lee.
  1. by the lee, Nautical. accidentally against what should be the lee side of a sail: Careless steering brought the wind by the lee.
  2. under the lee, Nautical. to leeward.

Origin of lee1

before 900; Middle English; Old English hlēo(w) shelter, cognate with Old Frisian hli, hly, Old Saxon hleo, Old Norse hlé
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for leer

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "If your cask is leer, I warrant your purse is full, gaffer," shouted Hordle John.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Then he peered into Hugh Ritson's face with a leer of triumph.

    A Son of Hagar</p>

    Sir Hall Caine

  • "A connection of the family, on the mother's side," said Terry, with a leer.

  • "Father Glynn, of Luke Street," growled out the imp, with a leer.

    Confessions Of Con Cregan

    Charles James Lever

  • I believe he tried to leer at me, because his voice was absolutely dying in his throat.


    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

British Dictionary definitions for leer


  1. (intr) to give an oblique, sneering, or suggestive look or grin
  1. such a look
Derived Formsleering, adjective, nounleeringly, adverb

Word Origin

C16: perhaps verbal use of obsolete leer cheek, from Old English hlēor


  1. a river in SW Republic of Ireland, flowing east into Cork Harbour. Length: about 80 km (50 miles)


  1. Ang (æŋ). born 1954, Taiwanese film director; his films include Sense and Sensibility (1995), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Brokeback Mountain (2005), and Life of Pi (2012)
  2. Bruce, original name Lee Yuen Kam . 1940–73, US film actor and kung fu expert who starred in such films as Enter the Dragon (1973)
  3. Gypsy Rose, original name Rose Louise Hovick . 1914–70, US striptease and burlesque artiste, who appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies (1936) and in films
  4. Laurie (ˈlɒrɪ). 1914–97, British poet and writer, best known for the autobiographical Cider with Rosie (1959)
  5. Richard Henry. 1732–94, American Revolutionary statesman, who moved the resolution in favour of American independence (1776)
  6. Robert E (dward). 1807–70, American general; commander-in-chief of the Confederate armies in the Civil War
  7. Spike, real name Shelton Jackson Lee. born 1957, US film director: his films include She's Gotta Have It (1985), Malcolm X (1992), and the documentary When the Leeves Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2008)
  8. T (sung) -D (ao) (tsuːŋ daʊ). born 1926, US physicist, born in China. With Yang he disproved the principle that that parity is always conserved and shared the Nobel prize for physics in 1957


  1. a sheltered part or side; the side away from the direction from which the wind is blowing
  2. by the lee nautical so that the wind is blowing on the wrong side of the sail
  3. under the lee nautical towards the lee
  1. (prenominal) nautical on, at, or towards the side or part away from the windon a lee shore Compare weather (def. 5)

Word Origin

Old English hlēow shelter; related to Old Norse hle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for leer


"to look obliquely" (now usually implying "with a lustful or malicious intent"), 1520s, probably from Middle English noun ler "cheek," from Old English hleor "the cheek, the face," from Proto-Germanic *khleuzas "near the ear," from *kleuso- "ear," from PIE root *kleu- "to hear" (see listen). The notion is probably of "looking askance" (cf. figurative development of cheek). Related: Leered; leering.


1590s, from leer (v).



Old English hleo "shelter, cover, defense, protection," from Proto-Germanic *khlewaz (cf. Old Norse hle, Danish , Old Saxon hleo, Dutch lij "lee, shelter"). No known cognates outside Germanic; original sense uncertain and might have been "warm" (cf. German lau "tepid," Old Norse hly "shelter, warmth"), which might link it to PIE *kele- (1) "warm." As an adjective, 1510s, from the noun.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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