Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To look with a sidelong glance, indicative especially of sexual desire or sly and malicious intent.
  • n. A desirous, sly, or knowing look.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Empty; unoccupied; clear.
  • adj. Destitute; lacking; wanting.
  • adj. Faint from lack of food; hungry.
  • adj. Thin; faint.
  • adj. Having no load or burden; free.
  • v. To look sideways or obliquely; now especially with sexual desire or malicious intent.
  • v. To entice with a leer or leers.
  • n. A significant side glance; a glance expressive of some passion, as malignity, amorousness, etc.; a sly or lecherous look.
  • n. An arch or affected glance or cast of countenance.
  • n. The cheek.
  • n. The face.
  • n. One's appearance; countenance.
  • n. Complexion; hue; blee; colour.
  • n. Flesh; skin.
  • n. The flank or loin.
  • n. Alternative form of lehr.
  • v. To teach.
  • v. To learn.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Empty of contents.
  • adj. Destitute of a rider; and hence, led, not ridden.
  • adj. Wanting sense or seriousness; trifling; trivolous.
  • n. An oven in which glassware is annealed.
  • n. The cheek.
  • n. Complexion; aspect; appearance.
  • n. A distorted expression of the face, or an indirect glance of the eye, conveying a sinister or immodest suggestion.
  • intransitive v. To look with a leer; to look askance with a suggestive expression, as of hatred, contempt, lust, etc.; to cast a sidelong lustful or malign look.
  • transitive v. To learn.
  • transitive v. To entice with a leer, or leers.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To look obliquely or askant; now, especially, to look obliquely with significance; cast a look expressive of some passion, as contempt, malignity, etc., especially a sly or amorous look.
  • To give an oblique glance or leer with.
  • To affect by leering, in a way specified.
  • Empty; unoccupied.
  • Hence Frivolous; trifling.
  • Left.
  • n. The cheek; more generally, the face.
  • n. Complexion; hue; color.
  • n. Flesh; skin.
  • n. The flank or loin.
  • n. A significant side glance; a glance expressive of some passion, as malignity, amorousness, etc.; an arch or affected glance or cast of countenance.
  • n. A dialectal variant of lire.
  • n. Tape, braid, binding, etc.
  • n. In glass manufacturing, an annealing-furnace in which glassware is slowly cooled and annealed.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. look suggestively or obliquely; look or gaze with a sly, immodest, or malign expression
  • n. a suggestive or sneering look or grin
  • n. a facial expression of contempt or scorn; the upper lip curls

Etymologies

Probably from obsolete leer, cheek, from Middle English ler, from Old English hlēor; see kleu- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Exact development uncertain, but apparently from *leer ("to make a face"), from leer ("face"). See below. (Wiktionary)
From Middle English ler, leor ("face, cheek"), from Old English hlēor ("face, cheek, profile"), from Proto-Germanic *hleuzan (“ear, cheek”), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱlews- (“temple of the forehead, cheek”), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱlewe-, *ḱlew- (“to hear”). Cognate with Scots lire, lere ("face, appearance, complexion, blee"), Dutch lier ("cheek"), Swedish lyra ("pout"), Norwegian lia ("hillside"), Icelandic hlýr ("the face, cheek, countenance"). Related to Old English hlyst ("sense of hearing, listening") and hlysnan ("to listen"). More at list, listen. (Wiktionary)
From Middle English lere, from Old English ġelǣre, *lǣre ("empty, void, empty-handed"), from Proto-Germanic *lēziz, *lēzijaz (“empty”), from Proto-Indo-European *les- (“to collect, pick”). Cognate with Dutch laar ("a clearing in the woods"), German leer ("empty"). Related to Old English lesan ("to gather, collect"). More at lease. (Wiktionary)
From Middle English leren, from Old English lǣran ("to teach, instruct, guide, enjoin, advise, persuade, urge, preach, hand down"), from Proto-Germanic *laizijanan (“to teach”), from Proto-Indo-European *leis- (“track, footprint, furrow, trace”). Cognate with Dutch leren ("to teach"), German lehren ("to teach"), Swedish lära ("to teach"). Related to Old English lār ("lore, learning, science, art of teaching, preaching, doctrine, study, precept, exhortation, advice, instigation, history, story, cunning "). See lore. (Wiktionary)
See lehr (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Gladys, overhearing, gave us all a grin, or perhaps the word leer describes it better, revealing that she had very few teeth and that the ones which were left were horridly like fangs.

    To Ruin a Queen

  • Her smile is now more sneer than leer, which is how I know she respects me somewhat.

    Fall On Your Knees

  • The leer was a parody of Pham's self-assured smile.

    A Fire Upon the Deep

  • I wonder now, when I recall his leer, that I did not collar him, and try to shake the breath out of his body.

    David Copperfield

  • The word "leer" is useful: It lets you know there's a line you will be judged by.

    Archive 2007-06-01

  • There was a kind of leer about his lips; he seemed laughing in his sleeve at some person or thing; his whole air was anything but that of a true man.

    Shirley, by Charlotte Bronte

  • UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, and this is an excuse sometime for men to kind of leer at your on the street.

    CNN Transcript Jul 12, 2002

  • If you can imagine a mixture of hate, triumph, fear, and despair, with a kind of leer running through it, you will get some notion of the pheeal that rose and sank and wavered and quavered far away across the Waingunga.

    The Second Jungle Book

  • It is really the clever portraiture of the habitual "leer" of a somewhat wearied sensual woman.

    More Science From an Easy Chair

  • As a result of the televised "leer", as cable channels dub it, O knows "he would endure his wife's silent disinterest in him tonight, the punishment she reserved for those of his offences that had embarrassed her as well as him."

    The Guardian World News

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