A very similar expression to the one I mean can be seen here (the girl at 1:38).

enter image description here

Mouth slightly open (upper teeth showing), eyes almost or at least slightly closed, head also slightly tilted to one side, and a small head shake.

What's the name for this expression, or a way to quickly describe it?


"What?" she asked as she shook her head in disbelief.

(Don't think that's accurate though.)

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    I think you already nailed it: an incredulous look, or shaking her head in disbelief. – Dan Bron Jun 10 '16 at 18:11

The word choice depends on the degree of surprise/bafflement provoked by someone's behaviour.

A quizzical reaction to someone's behaviour (i.e. mild puzzlement (OED), allowing the possibility that there may be a reasonable explanation), or an incredulous reaction (i.e. frank disbelief (OED) that someone should actually do such a thing).


I like the expression quizzical

quizzical (OD)

(Of a person’s expression or behaviour) indicating mild or amused puzzlement:
she gave me a quizzical look

Rowan Atkinson from the BBC TV comedy series, Blacck Adder, perfected the art of the quizzical expression.

enter image description here

  • No, she's disbelieving. Or can quizzical be used for disbelieving / incredulous? – Dan Bron Jun 10 '16 at 18:19
  • Doesn't she look confused in the image, as if she were saying What are you getting at? Mildly puzzled, as if questioning the person's claim/behaviour/opinion. I suppose disbelief fits better. But I like the word quizzical, and I don't care about the upvotes or downvotes. Not on this type of answers. – Mari-Lou A Jun 10 '16 at 18:26
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    In the video, she's not so much confused as calling bullshit, saying "no way!". But you're right, questioning (quizzing!) the guy's behavior is one way to put it. There is no doubt in her mind that he's wrong/weird, but she might be questioning why he's doing it at all. – Dan Bron Jun 10 '16 at 18:27
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    @DanBron the next time a neologism contest comes around, I hope you submit wrongweird defined as Steve Buscemi. – Phil Sweet Jun 10 '16 at 19:34

To me, her face is saying, "I can't believe you did/would do that." Specifically, it says this with a condescending/snide/sardonic expression - as if mocking someone she knows (or maybe doesn't know) for a bone-headed action.


Exasperation? That is when, for instance, you explain carefully, twice, how to do something, and the person does it wrongly, twice, and also breaks something on the second try.

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