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[skoul] /skaʊl/
verb (used without object)
to draw down or contract the brows in a sullen, displeased, or angry manner.
to have a gloomy or threatening look.
verb (used with object)
to affect or express with a scowl.
a scowling expression, look, or aspect.
Origin of scowl
1300-50; Middle English scoulen (v.); perhaps < Scandinavian; compare Danish skule to scowl, Norwegian skule to look furtively, though these may be < Low German schūlen to spy
Related forms
scowler, noun
scowlful, adjective
scowlingly, adverb
unscowling, adjective
unscowlingly, adverb
1. frown, lower, glare. 2. glower, gloom. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for scowl
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In the rear I saw him light his pipe and puff and scowl in a puzzled way.

    The Harbor Ernest Poole
  • His ruddy English face was knotted in a scowl and his blue eyes were dark.

  • Yet at the mention of her name a scowl darkened his ponderous countenance.

    Bardelys the Magnificent Rafael Sabatini
  • Deeper came the line between his brows at that, and blacker grew the scowl.

    Bardelys the Magnificent Rafael Sabatini
  • The scowl faded from his face to be replaced by an expression of dismay.

    The Sea-Hawk Raphael Sabatini
  • O'Malley was looking down at him, his homely face twisted into a scowl.

  • “All great men profess to scowl at flattery,” thought Straws.

    The Strollers Frederic S. Isham
  • The deputy looked at him with 131 a scowl in which there was a mixture of curiosity.

    The Coyote James Roberts
  • He must have some soft emotions, she thought, behind the scowl.

    The Prisoner Alice Brown
British Dictionary definitions for scowl


(intransitive) to contract the brows in a threatening or angry manner
a gloomy or threatening expression
Word Origin
C14: probably from Scandinavian; compare Danish skule to look down, Old English scūlēgede squint-eyed
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
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Word Origin and History for scowl

mid-14c., from a Scandinavian source (cf. Norwegian skule "look furtively, squint, look embarrassed," Danish skule "to scowl, cast down the eyes"). Probably related to Old English sceolh "wry, oblique," Old High German scelah "curved," German scheel "squint-eyed;" from PIE root *sqel- "crooked, curved, bent." Related: Scowled; scowling.


c.1500, from scowl (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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