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From a conflation of Middle English glacen (to graze, strike a glancing blow) and Middle English glenten (to look askance). Middle English glacen came from Old French glacier (to slip, make slippery), which was a derivative of glace (ice). Middle English glenten was derived from Old Norse *glenta (to shine; look), which ultimately comes from Proto-Germanic *glintaną (to shine; look). Middle English glenten is also the source of glint.

The form of the modern word takes largely after its Latinate parent, save for the medial -n-. On the other hand, the most common sense in modern usage, "to look briefly (at something)", comes from its Germanic parent. The sense "to sparkle" does as well. Most other senses derive from Middle English glacen.



glance (third-person singular simple present glances, present participle glancing, simple past and past participle glanced)

  1. (intransitive) To look briefly (at something).
    She glanced at her reflection as she passed the mirror.
  2. (intransitive) To graze at a surface.
  3. To sparkle.
    The spring sunlight was glancing on the water of the pond.
    • 1850, [Alfred, Lord Tennyson], In Memoriam, London: Edward Moxon, [], OCLC 3968433, (please specify |part=prologue or epilogue, or |canto=I to CXXIX):
      From art, from nature, from the schools, / Let random influences glance, / Like light in many a shivered lance, / That breaks about the dappled pools.
  4. (intransitive) To move quickly, appearing and disappearing rapidly; to be visible only for an instant at a time; to move interruptedly; to twinkle.
    • 1842, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Lays of Ancient Rome/Virginia:
      And all along the forum and up the sacred seat, / His vulture eye pursued the trip of those small glancing feet.
  5. (intransitive) To strike and fly off in an oblique direction; to dart aside.
  6. (soccer) To hit lightly with the head, make a deft header.
    • 2011 January 18, “Wolverhampton 5 - 0 Doncaster”, in BBC[1]:
      Doncaster paid the price two minutes later when Doyle sent Hunt away down the left and his pinpoint cross was glanced in by Fletcher for his sixth goal of the season.
  7. To make an incidental or passing reflection; to allude; to hint; often with at.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Iulius Cæsar”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene ii]:
      Wherein obscurely / Caesar's ambition shall be glanced at.
    • a. 1746, Jonathan Swift, “An Essay on the Fates of Clergymen”, in Thomas Sheridan and John Nichols, editors, The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift, [], volume V, new edition, London: [] J[oseph] Johnson, [], published 1801, OCLC 1184656746, page 120:
      [I]t was objected against him, that he had written verses, and particularly some, wherein he glanced at a certain reverend doctor famous for dulness; []
    • 1834, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Francesca Carrara, volume 3, page 237:
      Francesca followed, reluctant enough in her secret; for though she would not have admitted it even to herself, she did shrink from the infliction of the inane solemnities with which her father garnished his discourse—to say nothing of the ungracious reflections which so often glanced at herself.
  8. (ichthyology) A type of interaction between parent fish and offspring in which juveniles swim toward and rapidly touch the sides of the parent, in most cases feeding on parental mucus. Relatively few species glance, mainly some Cichlidae.
    • 1988 May 1, Kathryn Kavanagh, “Notes on the Frequency and Function of Glancing in Juvenile Acanthochromis(Pomacentridae)”, in Copeia[2], page 493-496:
      The fourth noncichlid species, and the only marine species, is Acanthochromis polyacanthus (Pomacentridae). The glancing behavior of juvenile Acanthochromis ... bears a superficial resemblance to that recorded for cichlid species


  • (To see something briefly): see

Derived terms[edit]



glance (countable and uncountable, plural glances)

  1. A brief or cursory look.
    • c. 1590–1592, William Shakespeare, “The Taming of the Shrew”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act V, scene ii]:
      Dart not scornful glances from those eyes.
    • 1900, Charles W. Chesnutt, chapter I, in The House Behind the Cedars:
      Warwick left the undertaker's shop and retraced his steps until he had passed the lawyer's office, toward which he threw an affectionate glance.
    • 1959, Georgette Heyer, chapter 1, in The Unknown Ajax:
      But Richmond, his grandfather's darling, after one thoughtful glance cast under his lashes at that uncompromising countenance appeared to lose himself in his own reflections.
  2. A deflection.
  3. (cricket) A stroke in which the ball is deflected to one side.
  4. A sudden flash of light or splendour.
  5. An incidental or passing thought or allusion.
    • c. 1782, William Cowper, The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk
      How fleet is a glance of the mind.
  6. (mineralogy) Any of various sulphides, mostly dark-coloured, which have a brilliant metallic lustre.
    copper glance
    silver glance
  7. (mineralogy) Glance coal.

Derived terms[edit]