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 formsscowl·er, nounscowl·ful, adjectivescowl·ing·ly, adverbun·scowl·ing, adjectiveun·scowl·ing·ly, adverb

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

Related Words for scowl

grimace, glower, glare, gloom, lower, disapprove, lour

Examples from the Web for scowl

Contemporary Examples of scowl

  • Clint Dempsey stalked off the field with a scowl on his face.

    The Daily Beast logo
    A Fabulous Tie

    Joshua Robinson

    June 18, 2010

Historical Examples of scowl

  • 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.

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

  • The scowl faded from his face to be replaced by an expression of dismay.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for scowl



(intr) to contract the brows in a threatening or angry manner


a gloomy or threatening expression

Word Origin for scowl

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

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