Is there an English word which means a "reverse blink?" By this I mean, having your eyes closed and then opening them for a fraction of a second and then closing them.

This question was inspired by http://what-if.xkcd.com/115/

  • 5
    You could call it a "knilb"...
    – Jim Mack
    Oct 10, 2014 at 0:50
  • 1
    Hey! I was gonna ask this! :)
    – Marthaª
    Oct 10, 2014 at 1:05
  • @Marthaª It looks like I have found a way to get instant rep on a StackExchange site: Wait for relevant question to be asked on xkcd and then ask that question on StackExchange. Instant upvote and commenting privlages. :P
    – Sudo Bash
    Oct 11, 2014 at 5:45

1 Answer 1


You are asking about "peek". That is to look quickly through the eyes, like a game of peek-a-boo. You don't have to use your hands though.

peek (pk) intr.v. peeked, peek·ing, peeks 1. To glance quickly. 2. To look or peer furtively, as from a place of concealment. 3. To be only partially visible, as if peering or emerging from hiding: Tiny crocuses peeked through the snow. n. A brief or furtive look. [Middle English piken, perhaps alteration of Middle Dutch kieken, variant of kken.] The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

If you are standing in the surface of the sun for a nanosecond, a peek would be the best you could do- although I wonder if Randall Munroe was seeking to emphasize how brief this "peek" would need to be. A peek can be several seconds, and as he suggests, even a nanosecond in the interior would be far too long.

To be fair, a nanosecond on the surface would warm you up, but not burn you - but several microseconds might. A peek is probably longer than that - I suspect he is alluding to "the blink of an eye" to underscore the brevity.

What I wonder is if a peek would blind you...

  • To my knowledge peek is more often used to look secretly, not for a very short time. There might be a better/less ambiguous word for the reverse blink.
    – npst
    Oct 10, 2014 at 13:18
  • 3
    Nope - it has both meanings. I agree, my first connotation is to look secretly, but it can mean just a quick glance - such as "I'll drop into that store and take a peek at the prices." Doesn't mean you are trying to hide anything, just that you are going to get out of there before your girlfriend pulls out your wallet. Oct 10, 2014 at 13:56
  • As an aside, lighthouses are said to flash if the light is obscured more than it shines, and occulating is when the signal shines more than it is obscured.
    – JenSCDC
    Oct 10, 2014 at 14:25

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