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See more synonyms for glimpse on Thesaurus.com
  1. a very brief, passing look, sight, or view.
  2. a momentary or slight appearance.
  3. a vague idea; inkling.
  4. Archaic. a gleam, as of light.
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verb (used with object), glimpsed, glimps·ing.
  1. to catch or take a glimpse of.
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verb (used without object), glimpsed, glimps·ing.
  1. to look briefly; glance (usually followed by at).
  2. Archaic. to come into view; appear faintly.
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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


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

peek, spy, eye, sight, flash, spot, espy, descry, view

Examples from the Web for glimpsed

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Her foot, glimpsed beneath her skirt, was slender and graceful, too.

    Kent Knowles: Quahaug

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • He glimpsed the boy in the kitchen doorway behind the sheriff.

    The Coyote

    James Roberts

  • Had she not glimpsed more, in those months at Highacres, than her mother dreamed?


    Jane Abbott

  • In truth he had only glimpsed a darting figure, but one he knew!

  • A second time I glimpsed the Slav behind his veneer of civilization.

    The Pirate of Panama

    William MacLeod Raine

British Dictionary definitions for glimpsed


  1. a brief or incomplete viewto catch a glimpse of the sea
  2. a vague indicationhe had a glimpse of what the lecturer meant
  3. archaic a glimmer of light
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  1. (tr) to catch sight of briefly or momentarily
  2. (intr usually foll by at) mainly US to look (at) briefly or cursorily; glance (at)
  3. (intr) archaic to shine faintly; glimmer
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Derived Formsglimpser, noun

Word Origin

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 glimpsed



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.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper