Word List: Alternatives to "Eyes" (Amended)

We have decided to reblog this Word List with some disclaimers. See below for amendments.


Instead of eyes, consider:

  • eyeballs: The round part of the eye of a vertebrate, within the eyelids and socket.
  • irises: A flat, colored, ring-shaped membrane behind the cornea of the eye, with an adjustable circular opening (pupil) in the center.
  • orbs: A spherical body; a globe; sometimes a romanticized term for “eyes” (use with extreme caution).
  • peepers: Slang for “eyes”.
  • pupils: The dark circular opening in the center of the iris of the eye, varying in size to regulate the amount of light reaching the retina.

Or, altered slightly, line of vision:

  • gaze: Look steadily and intently, esp. in admiration, surprise, or thought.
  • glare: Stare in an angry or fierce way.
  • look: Direct one’s gaze toward someone or something or in a specified direction
  • stare: Look fixedly or vacantly at someone or something with one’s eyes wide open.

Several bloggers have commented on this List with cautions of their own:

crazywordycher: Use the word eyes and be done with it. Irises and pupils are two different parts of the eye. If a character has brown eyes, just state that they do, and go on with the story. I can always tell that a book will be awful, if the author spends too much time using words like “orbs” or any repetitive descriptions of eye color.

meltingpenguins: While words like ‘pupils’ or ‘iris’ CAN be used instead of eyes it can only be done in certain context:

“He had odd blue eyes” can work as “he had odd blue irises”, but not as “he had odd blue pupils” (unless, of course, his pupils actually ARE blue (pupil is the black part, for those who forgot). “He had odd blue orbs” also doesn’t work, unless the character actually has entirely blue eyeballs without a visible iris or pupil. Though then you should perhaps better write “He had odd blue orbs for eyes” or something along those lines.

“Her eyes widened” can work as “her pupils widened” if, in fact, only the pupil does so. If eyelids are involved, stay with eyes.

“He opened his eyes”. Well, just imagine the mental image of replacing eyes in this case.

tenbabyshoes: Do not use orbs. Never use orbs.

As always, if you have suggestions on how to improve this list, please feel free to tell us!