verb (used with object), glimpsed, glimps·ing.

to catch or take a glimpse of.

verb (used without object), glimpsed, glimps·ing.

to look briefly; glance (usually followed by at).
Archaic. to come into view; appear faintly.

Origin of glimpse

1350–1400; Middle English glimsen (v.); cognate with Middle High German glimsen to glow; akin to glimmer
Related formsglimps·er, nounun·glimpsed, adjective
Can be confusedglance glimpse

Synonyms for glimpse Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for glimpse

Contemporary Examples of glimpse

Historical Examples of glimpse

  • I catch a glimpse of the grandness of your sister's meaning.

  • I'll burn my copy before I will let you have a glimpse of it.

  • Yet how imperfect a glimpse do we obtain of him, through the medium of this, or any of his letters!

    A Book of Autographs

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • I thought I had a glimpse of something behind that thick bush.

    The Gorgon's Head

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • At the first glimpse of the terrible head of Medusa, they whitened into marble!

    The Gorgon's Head

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

British Dictionary definitions for glimpse



a brief or incomplete viewto catch a glimpse of the sea
a vague indicationhe had a glimpse of what the lecturer meant
archaic a glimmer of light


(tr) to catch sight of briefly or momentarily
(intr usually foll by at) mainly US to look (at) briefly or cursorily; glance (at)
(intr) archaic to shine faintly; glimmer
Derived Formsglimpser, noun

Word Origin for glimpse

C14: of Germanic origin; compare Middle High German glimsen to glimmer


Glimpse is sometimes wrongly used where glance is meant: he gave a quick glance (not glimpse) at his watch
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 glimpse

c.1400, "to glisten, be dazzling," probably from Old English *glimsian "shine faintly," from Proto-Germanic *glim- (see gleam). If so, the intrusive -p- would be there to ease pronunciation. Sense of "catch a quick view" first recorded mid-15c. Related: Glimpsed. The noun is recorded from mid-16c.; earlier in verbal noun glimpsing (mid-14c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper