I'm not a native speaker and I need some help. I'm brushing up my English doing some exercises. One of them wants me to translate the phrase "to look absentmindedly" using just one verb. Could you, please, give me a hand?

  • 2
    I assume you mean to look at [something] absent-mindedly, not to appear to be absent-minded. In which case probably you just want glance, but we don't normally do "translations" here. Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 22:39
  • Oh, yes, I've forgotten to use "at". Thank you for your answer!
    – kseniyakaz
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 22:43
  • Not everything has to be a single word. You can take a gander at thesaurus.com/browse/glance though.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 22:43
  • This question is in jeopardy of being closed because it is incomplete: lacks research. It can be improved by adding the results of your research.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 14:56

2 Answers 2


Without context it's hard to narrow down, but here's a few random ideas:

  • overlook: to look without seeing or perceiving
  • gawk: to stare or gape stupidly
  • gongoozle: to observe idly (not widely known)
  • muse: to gaze meditatively (implies that the looker's eyes are open, but their thoughts are elsewhere)
  • wander: to look idly from one place to another
  • range: to glance over a series of objects or look over an area

My best recommendation would be "gaze", as I think this gives the impression of staring absentmindedly, although adding "absentmindedly" would obviously strengthen the meaning of any verb we could suggest. I don't think there is any single verb that conveys that same meaning.

Other common expressions are "stare off into space" or "stare off into the distance".

  • 3
    Gaze is appropriate if the person is staring at one thing (for some time) without really seeing it - compare thousand-yard stare. However, if I understood the OP's question correctly, the situation he has in mind is, e.g., standing at the door while looking around the room, patting your pockets, and trying to remember what you meant to take with you. (I find myself doing this all the time.) In that case, the word is (as @FumbleFingers pointed out) glance.
    – MT_Head
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 0:45
  • I just realized I made an unwarranted gender assumption when I said "the situation he has in mind". Извините, Ксения!
    – MT_Head
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 1:10
  • @sacohe, "I don't think there is any single verb..." is an unsupported opinion. Can you include the resources you've consulted? Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 2:25
  • This is my opinion, which is why I prefaced my claim with "I don't think". Can you think of a single word that means what the OP is asking? I was unable to think of or find a better synonym than the one I suggested. I do think that for any context the poster may be using such a verb could be greatly strengthened with "absentmindedly".
    – sacohe
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 2:51
  • 1
    Ничего страшного!
    – kseniyakaz
    Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 22:14

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