1

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 Feb 29 '16 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 Feb 29 '16 at 9:21
  • Please see the edit and try to include your own research in your question. – user140086 Feb 29 '16 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 Feb 29 '16 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 Feb 29 '16 at 17:25
2

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.

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