What is it called when someone is talking and cracking a smile at the same time, but in a way that only one side of the mouth is moved upward, like those villians in japanese mangas?

4 Answers 4


"Sneer" fits that description:

sneer (snîr) n. (to sneer is also a verb for making that facial expression):

  1. A scornful facial expression characterized by a slight raising of one corner of the upper lip.

There are a number of other synonyms for sneer that can convey the sense one gets from the sneer:

smirk, scorn, mock, ridicule, laugh, jeer, disdain, scoff, deride, look down on, snigger, sniff at, gibe, hold in contempt

Edit: Image of Billy Idol who was famous for his sneer: https:www.blindfiveyearold.com https:www.blindfiveyearold.com

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    I'd add smirk as covering some cases, but sneer is definitely the one most on the mark.
    – Jon Hanna
    May 30, 2013 at 17:54
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    I think I would favor smirk to express that it's a smile, sneer to express that it's contemptuous. Not all sneers are smiles. May 30, 2013 at 19:35
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    Yes, it's a reasonable inference, although even in anime it's often possible to tell the difference between the two. May 30, 2013 at 20:32
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    The corner of the upper lip is not not the corner of the mouth. The sneer is not a smile; it's more like a snarl.
    – Kaz
    May 30, 2013 at 21:35
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    Hey, I'd say mock or bait... jeer? Something along those lines because they sound more like fake smiles. When I see Clint Eastwood raise his upper lip, it looks like a sneer to me. It doesn't seem like a smile to me, but hey whatever. May 30, 2013 at 22:55

A smirk is an “uneven, often crooked smile that is insolent, self-satisfied or scornful,” which fits the description perfectly. A sneer is a similar expression of contempt, but it specifically refers to a curling of the upper lip, not necessarily a smile.

  • I agree with smirk. Actually, according to the SEM, an uneven smile is supposed to be the picture of disdain. I still think a jeer is close and a scoff is closest, though. May 30, 2013 at 22:59
  • @Wolfpack'08 Scoffs and jeers are more verbal than facial expressions. May 30, 2013 at 23:21
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    In the context I've seen them, they work either way. I basically see scoff as having three meaning: scarfing down food, forcing out air to express confoundment or disdain, or smiling in a way that says 'go ahead and try' or 'yeah, you're full of it'. As for jeer, I've never seen it in any context other than one describing expressions and mannerisms. So, I looked it up: sentence.yourdictionary.com/jeer, and now I've seen it both ways. :) May 30, 2013 at 23:26
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    @Wolfpack'08: Really? I agree with Bradd's assessment. Also, I don't read -any- of those examples at that site as having anything to do with a facial expression.
    – Mitch
    May 31, 2013 at 0:59

A couple of related words are sneer (which as already mentioned has a meaning like “A facial expression where one slightly raises one corner of the upper lip, generally indicating scorn”) and sardonic (“Scornfully mocking or cynical” or “Disdainfully or ironically humorous” ).

In Google-image results for sneer and sardonic smile, the sneers are much more frequently like frowns than like smiles; and the sardonic smiles often are like sneers, and sometimes like frowns. Images for smirk seem to be mostly like smiles with a lifted corner.

  • Who can forget that movie, "Mr. Sardonicus"? The guy's face froze into a, well, sardonic grimace when he viewed his father's corpe's face after digging him up to retrieve a winning lottery ticket! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sardgrin2.jpg May 30, 2013 at 18:05

Scoff, chaff, knock, jeer, gibe, flout, pan, and tease are all words I've seen in this context. Chaff and pan seem more friendly, flout sounds pouty or bubbly, pan and gibe sound more indifferent with knock being the most indifferent, jeer is where things start to become disdainful, and a scoff is downright rude.


Chaff - 'A joking, almost condescending smile.'


Flout - 'Express playful disdain for the rules: mock, scoff...'


Jeer - 'Cruel, insulting laughter, that shows disrespect.'

I've got to say, I strongly agree with the statement that a "sneer" is more like a snarl than a smile. Someone whose teeth are showing doesn't necessarily have his or her mouth turned upwards, and that's what a smile really is. I think that a "jeer" is the same as a sneer but with an almost definite smile.


Sneer - 'A grimace. Disdain, expressed by curling part of the upper lip upwards.'

Smirk is also great. It fits in somewhere between chaff and gibe.


Smirk - 'A fake, sarcastic, or invalidating smile.'

  • @BraddSzonye Mouse over the pictures, and they're each tied to one of the words--chaff, flout, jeer, sneer, smirk. May 30, 2013 at 23:40
  • let us continue this discussion in chat May 30, 2013 at 23:42
  • @BraddSzonye They all involve a crooked smile more than a sneer does. They're not "isolated" to facial expressions, probably because they're more common expressions than the sneer. Just because a sneer has only one meaning, and it is isolated to the face, does not mean that it is any more accurate than words that have homonyms which are not related to facial expressions. A jeer is most certainly a facial expression, as is a scoff. Take a step back and draw a picture of "a jeering face" or "a scoffing face", as these words are often adjectives. Don't confuse people with information, please. May 31, 2013 at 0:05
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    Thanks, this is much better with captions for the pictures. Could you please link to the definitions you're referencing? Jeer makes more sense the way you've described it here, although that's not the way I usually see the word used. Likewise for flout, which generally indicates behavior and not expression. Also, could you please be less hostile in your comments? May 31, 2013 at 0:09
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    By the way, homonyms are different words with the same spelling. A different sense of the same word is not a homonym. That's why I didn't understand what you were saying earlier about “homonyms” when you were talking about meanings. May 31, 2013 at 1:04

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