I'm looking for an appropriate word for a certain kind of a smile.

Are you in love with that girl' asked she with a grin on her face.

I have used the word grin but I guess grin is a broad smile.

The situation here is the girl who is asking the question is in love with the guy. But she hasn't told him yet. She heard from someone that he likes someone else. So the degree of smile is actually a small smile which doesn't reveal much.

  • Not what you asked, but would 'twinkle in her eye' work for you?
    – davidgo
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 8:37
  • A wry grin perhaps.
    – Argot
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 9:04
  • Have you looked in a thesaurus? In any case, thank you for providing such a good context, this makes it much easier for users to answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 9:29
  • @Mari-LouA ys i tried but couldn't get what i was really looking for..
    – iJade
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 9:41

7 Answers 7


I think modest smile would work well:

Are you in love with that girl' she asked with a modest smile.

According to TFD it has the meanings:

  1. Having or showing a moderate estimation of one's own talents, abilities, and value.
  2. Having or proceeding from a disinclination to call attention to oneself; retiring or diffident. See Synonyms at shy1.
  3. Observing conventional proprieties in speech, behavior, or dress.
  4. Free from showiness or ostentation; unpretentious. See Synonyms at plain.
  5. Moderate or limited in size, quantity, or range; not extreme: a modest price; a newspaper with a modest circulation.

By 5, it means "not large," which can mean small. "Not revealing much" may be captured by 4, particularly about herself as noted in 2.

Two other words to describe her smile might be coy or demure.


Are you in love with that girl, she asked with a nervous smile on her face.

She is uncertain of the answer and is not sure of his reaction, hence nervous. I would have said hopeful or anticipatory but they imply that the verdict would be in her favor.

  • dat sounds good...
    – iJade
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 9:42

One way (similar to davidgo's comment) would be to avoid naming the smile at all, and concentrate on the adjectives describing the smile itself, then you have much more flexibility:

'Are you in love with that girl ?', she asked with a inquisitive / teasing, shy smile.

And/Or even describe her body language.. 'tilting her head to the side..' to imply awkwardness.


Sardonic:grimly mocking or cynical."stark attempted a sardonic smile". So I think"sardonic" smile is apt in this case because it also highlights the disapproving factor , if you follow other definitions.(from free dictionary: characterised by a scornful derision , bitter irony )

  • Sardonic has negative connotations, to describe the smile of someone in love as such sounds eery and almost menacing.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 9:18
  • Yeah,here the smile has negative connotations(she obviously is smiling disapprovingly). I disagree about menacing and eerie though.
    – Argot
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 9:21
  • But sardonic does not convey a "small smile".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 9:24

If she was in love with the guy, smiling would not be easy. I would write,

"Are you in love with that girl?", she asked with a forced smile.


"Are you in love with that girl?", she asked, trying to bring out a smile.


Are you in love with that girl?

  • She asked coyly 1
  • She asked sweetly 2
  • She smiled nervously 3
  • She smiled hesitantly 4
  • She queried demurely 5
  • She queried timidly with a smile 6
  • She gently probed with the hint of a smile 7

"Are you in love with that girl?" she asked with a tentative smile.

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