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 scowling

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

Examples from the Web for scowling

Contemporary Examples of scowling

Historical Examples of scowling

  • I can see him yet, scowling at me and whirling the loop over his head ready to throw.

  • Then he looked at the black-browed, scowling woman, and his look was very kind.

  • Presently, scowling over her work, she began muttering to herself.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • He was scowling at me in an instant with all his old ferocity.

  • They dispersed laughing and followed by O'Moy's scowling eyes.

    The Snare

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for scowling



(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 scowling



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