I know what the verb leer means:

to look at someone in an unpleasant way that shows that you think they are sexually attractive

[Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English]

What does 'leering' mean in this context?

The edifices were in a state of decay-shutters torn off, roofs crumbled under the weight of heavy snows gone by, windows dusty and leering.

from'Night shift' by Steven King

  • Look up the verb "to leer" in a dictionary, and tell me what you find.
    – deadrat
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 9:15
  • I know 'leer'means. 'To look at someone in an unpleasant way that shows that you think they are sexually attractive.' in a longman dictionary.
    – colona
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 9:21
  • Please see the edit and try to include your own research in your question.
    – user140086
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 9:45
  • OK, good. So you know that to leer means to give a malicious look. Does it make sense now that windows can seem to be the eyes of a building? After all, light comes in through windows and people look out of them.
    – deadrat
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 10:01
  • Next time, ask @deadrat what patronising means! If it is any consolation to you, I have been a native speaker for over 70 years, but would have had just as much trouble envisaging windows leering as you have had.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 17:25

1 Answer 1


I believe that this is a poetic way of saying that the subject feels that the buildings in question are looking at him or her in a disturbing way.

Taken literally, windows cannot leer: they cannot look, and leering is a kind of looking (specifically, a kind of looking which implies some sort of menace or bad intent, often sexual). But, sometimes, perhaps when feeling scared, one may feel that a building has some sort of "spirit" or "personality" and is looking at us.

For a building to be leering at us would imply that it is looking at us in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable and possibly threatened, and I think that's what the author was trying to convey here.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.