We sipped our tea in silence for a while, the steam [...] our faces.

I searched on Google and Thesaurus but couldn't find anything.

  • 11
    I would say "obscured" or "obscuring", depending on how you punctuate.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 19, 2015 at 13:01
  • Good luck on picking which answer is "the right one". Apr 19, 2015 at 18:00
  • You could use obfuscate in the old sense machaut.uchicago.edu/… but that would likely jst confuse people. Apr 20, 2015 at 13:04

11 Answers 11


Obscuring -- Obscure: indistinct to the sight... dictionary.reference.com.

Or how about misting -- this would imply the feeling of steam condensing on your faces as well.


I would suggest using a figurative, 'veil' verb, unless you want a literal word.

Example from "Rise and Shine" by Anna Quindlen on Google Books

The coffee was strong, and the steam veiled our faces as we bent over it.

Veil on The Free Dictionary

v. veiled, veil·ing, veils v.tr.

  1. To cover with or as if with a veil: Dense fog veiled the bridge.
  2. To conceal or disguise: a smile that veiled his anger.
  • 2
    Ha, I thought about that one, too.
    – wyc
    Apr 19, 2015 at 14:20
  • janoChen - yes, because it is frequently used, it comes first when we think about a hot drink and steam.
    – Oleksii
    Apr 19, 2015 at 14:25

You can use the verb cloud figuratively. In your example, steam acts like a little cloud that partially hides their faces.

to envelop or hide with or as if with a cloud [MW]

Here is an example from Annie Murray's The Orphan of Angel Street (2011):

Mercy looked over at him from where she was swirling cold water in with the hot, her sleeves rolled up and steam clouding her face.

I could even find a very similar example to yours:

I remember sharing thick slices of homemade banana bread, sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table, steam from the hot tea clouding our faces, while I interviewed her for a school project.


  • Although beware confusion with the phrase (someone's) face clouded over, meaning they suddenly looked unhappy or worried.
    – psmears
    Apr 20, 2015 at 22:07

"while the steam blurred our faces..." or "while our faces were blurred in the steam."

blur - "to make dim, indistinct, or vague in outline or character" MW

  • The tears in my eyes blurred the words on the page.
  • His novel is based on historical occurrences but it blurs the line between fact and fiction.
  • Funny, that was the first word I thought of.
    – wyc
    Apr 19, 2015 at 14:20
  • and so did I. +1
    – Misti
    Apr 20, 2015 at 12:52

I am inclined towards 'shrouding'. It even alliterates with the previous word, adding to the sentence's elegance.


There are any number of good answers, many of them figurative, and the best choice may very well depend on the context or atmosphere you are trying to describe.

For example, if this tea sipping is somewhat somber in nature (perhaps contemplating endings in silence with each other), one might use shroud, which both literally means "partially obscure" and also has a somewhat somber connotation due to the funereal use of the noun form of the word.

If one is going for a more sensual tone (e.g. this is a couple who are romantically inclined), the steam may caress their faces, which would imply the partial obscuration but obviously has sensual overtones.

If one is going for a more pensive mood, one might use the fairly connotation-neutral word obscure (as mentioned above).

For a more mysterious feel (e.g., you are having tea with a person you do not know who has an intriguing proposition for you), you can use veil, which has connotations of hiding an intent or meaning, or at least withdrawal and separation.

Most of your word choices in this area are likely to carry a connotation of some kind, so you may want to ensure that the connotation at least fits the mood you're building - or if not, then to find one as neutral as possible.

  • I like this one the best. "We sat and sipped, faces shrouded in steaming vapours of the orient - a piquant, refreshing mist; neither so potent nor so damning as the swirling gloom of the opium dens that capture the hearts and minds of so many visiting that far land. Tea is a queen among spices..."
    – Peter Wone
    Apr 20, 2015 at 21:19

What do you think about :

We sipped our tea in silence for a while, the steam concealing our faces.

From wordreference :

con•ceal /kənˈsil/ v. [~ + object]

- to hide;

cover or keep from sight: A high wall concealed the house.

- to keep secret;

avoid disclosing: to conceal one's true motives.

And from wiktionary :

(transitive) To hide something from view or from public knowledge, to try to keep something secret.

He tried to conceal the truth about his health.


Occlude or occult are correct words with this meaning. They are often used in constructions to do with solar and lunar eclipses. In your context, they'd be a bit odd.


Another suggestion:


Meaning(v): Protect, hide, or conceal.

We sipped our tea in silence for a while, the steam screening our faces.


While the other answers are good an,d in particular, technically correct, another word you might consider is eclipse.


an obscuring of the light from one celestial body by the passage of another between it and the observer or between it and its source of illumination

While your faces may not strictly speaking be celestial bodies, it is entirely usable in this context, and is nicely metaphorical.

... while the steam eclipsed our faces will be understood by any native english speaker (as obfuscate or occlude probably will not), and it gives the whole scene a slightly eerie feeling, an impression of gathering gloom. Depends on whether that's the feeling you are trying to invoke, it may or may not be appropriate.


From Merriam Websters, Camouflage

:a way of hiding something (such as military equipment) by painting it or covering it with leaves or branches to make it harder to see

: the green and brown clothing that soldiers and hunters wear to make them harder to see

: something (such as color or shape) that protects an animal from attack by making the animal difficult to see in the area around it

All senses are inherently partial concealment and English speakers consistently use and understand that partial concealment is implicit. It does not capture the idea of 75% of the sun was occluded by the moon, rather that the who is hidden, but imperfectly.

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