Sometimes, when people are absorbed in thinking about something they appear as if their gaze is fixed, but they look at nothing in particular. In my language there is an expression that translated word for word would sound like "looking at the void". Maybe a vacant look would describe this in English. Are there any expressions or idioms that would mean describe that kind of gaze?


4 Answers 4


to look/stare into space is close to your description:

  • to look in front of you for a long time without seeing the things that are there because you are thinking about something else:

    • He sat quietly for a while, staring into space.

MacMillan Dictionary


How about zone out?


zone out: to become oblivious to one's surroundings especially in order to relax

It's applicability extends beyond relaxing. One gets lost in one's own thoughts in many other contexts, during a conversation or at a meeting.


You could also use the thousand-yard stare

a vacant or unfocused gaze into the distance, seen as characteristic of a war-weary or traumatized soldier

  • This is also a good answer and I haven't heard this expression before. Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 7:57
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    It's worth noting that to say someone has a 'thousand-yard stare' implies they have undergone some sort of psychological damage, rather than that they are simply staring into space. Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 10:17

There used to be an expression, "in a brown study". It has fallen out of favor. It meant to enter into a state of deep reverie or contemplation.

From The Paris Review.


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