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Alternative forms[edit]

A looking glass, or mirror (sense 1)
The statue Alice through the Looking-Glass in the grounds of Guildford Castle in Guildford, Surrey, England, UK, which depicts the character Alice from Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking-Glass (1871) entering the looking-glass world by passing through a looking glass



looking-glass (plural looking-glasses)

  1. (dated) Synonym of mirror (smooth surface that reflects light so as to give an image of what is in front of it). [from 1520s]
    • 1661, John Reeve, Lodowick Muggleton [i.e., Lodowicke Muggleton], A Divine Looking-glass: Or, The Third and Last Testament of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, [], [London]: Printed [] and reprinted for Lodowick Muggleton, [], →OCLC, title page:
      A Divine Looking-Glaſs: Or, The third and laſt Teſtament of our Lord, JESUS CHRIST, [] [title]
    • 1711, [John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough], A Pair of Spectacles for Oliver’s Looking-glass Maker, London: Printed, and sold by J. Baker, [], →OCLC, page 4:
      Even ſo the account of your Looking-glaſs puts us in hopes of ſome mighty Diſcoveries to be made by the Help of it, and at the ſame time, ſeems to carry its own Contradiction along with it; for a Pocket Looking-glaſs, is, doubtleſs, a moſt prepoſterous Help for taking a Clear View of a Great Coloſſus, unleſs it be one of thoſe, that contract the largeſt Bodies into a ſmall compaſs; and then it may give us an Idea of the Proportions, but not a clearer View of all the Partcular Beauties or Deformities.
    • 1756, James Ferguson, Astronomy explained upon Sir Isaac Newton's Principles:
      This ruggedneſs of the Moon's ſurface is of great uſe to us, by reflecting the Sun's light to all ſides: for if the Moon were ſmooth and poliſhed like a looking-glaſs, or covered with water, ſhe could never diſtribute the Sun's light all round; []
    • 1812 November, “Art. I. Memoires de Frederique Sophie Wilhelmine de Prusse, Margrave de Bareith, Sœur de Frederic le Grand. Ecrits de sa Main. 8vo. 2 Tomes. Brunswick, Paris, et Londres. 1812.”, in The Edinburgh Review, or Critical Journal, volume XX, number XL, Edinburgh: Printed by David Willison, for Archibald Constable and Company, [], and White, Cochrane & Co., [], →OCLC, page 274:
      He [Frederick William I of Prussia] commanded his physician to tell him exactly how long he had to live; and when he answered, ‘about half an hour,’ he asked for a looking-glass, and said, with a smile, that he did look ill enough, and saw ‘qu’il ferait une vilaine grimace en mourant.
    • 1828 September, “Biographical Memoirs of Eminent Persons. [Captain Clapperton.]”, in The Monthly Magazine or British Register of Literature, Sciences, and the Belles-lettres, volume VI (New Series), number 33, London: Published by Geo[rge] B[yrom] Whittaker, [], →OCLC, page 324:
      [T]wo days before Captain [Hugh] Clapperton died, he requested to be shaved, as he was too weak to sit up. After the operation, he asked for a looking-glass, remarked that he was "doing better," and should certainly "get over it." The morning on which he died, he breathed loud, became restless, and shortly afterwards expired in [Richard] Lander's arms.
    • 1845, Walter Bernan [pseudonym; Robert Meikleham], “Essay VIII”, in On the History and Art of Warming and Ventilation Rooms and Buildings [], volume I, London: George Bell, [], →OCLC, footnote †, page 225:
      Many sorts of glass were in the market, called Lambeth or Ratcliffe, Normandy, German, white and green, Dutch, Newcastle, Staffordshire, and Bristol glass, looking glass and jealous glass. [] Looking glass plates were sometimes used in windows.
    • 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, “In which Miss Sharp and Miss Sedley Prepare to Open the Campaign”, in Vanity Fair [], London: Bradbury and Evans [], published 1848, →OCLC, page 9:
      The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.
    • 1856 March 17–18, Ford Madox Brown, “1856 [chapter title]”, in Virginia Surtees, editor, The Diary of Ford Madox Brown (Studies in British Art), New Haven, Conn., London: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press, published 1981, →ISBN, page 167:
      17th Drew in the dead body in the corrected sketch in Pen & Ink. It is rather dreary. Worked at sundries from Self in the looking glass (8 hours). / 18th worked all day from self in looking glass in shirts & draws. []
    • 1886, Léon Tolstoï [i.e., Leo Tolstoy], chapter XIII, in Clara Bell, transl., War and Peace: A Historical Novel: []: Borodino, the French at Moscow: Epilogue, 1812–1820: Two Volumes, revised and corrected edition, volume I, New York, N.Y.: William S. Gottsberger, publisher [], →OCLC, page 154:
      By Saturday, the 12th September, everything was topsy-turvy in the Rostow's house; doors were set open, furniture packed or moved from its place, looking-glasses and pictures taken down, []
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword: The Turk Street Mile”, in The China Governess: A Mystery, London: Chatto & Windus, →OCLC, page 18:
      Everything a living animal could do to destroy and to desecrate bed and walls had been done. [] A canister of flour from the kitchen had been thrown at the looking-glass and lay like trampled snow over the remains of a decent blue suit with the lining ripped out which lay on top of the ruin of a plastic wardrobe.
  2. A way into a bizarre world (from the book Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) by Lewis Carroll.
    Synonym: rabbit hole
    • 2016 July 29, Paul Krugman, “Who loves America?”, in The New York Times[1]:
      It has been quite a week in politics. [] I know that some Republicans feel as if they've fallen through the looking glass.

Derived terms[edit]