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Advanced Vocabulary: Describing Appearance

As well as “tall”, “short”, “slim” or “old”, there are many other ways for describing appearance in English. Check out these 20+ advanced ways to describe how you look – your general appearance, age, body size and the type of clothes you wear.

(If you need a review of basic physical description – as well as alternatives to words like “old” or “fat”, see the page on describing people.)

Appearance

be the spitting image of someone / be the spit = be identical to someone
“You’re the spitting image of your mother!”
“He’s the spit of his father!”

like peas in a pod = be very similar
“The two sisters are like peas in a pod.”

like chalk and cheese / bear no resemblance to = not be similar at all
“The twins are like chalk and cheese!”
“He bears no resemblance to his father at all.”

Age

getting on a bit / knocking on a bit = getting old
“My parents are knocking on a bit now, but they’re still healthy and active.”

on the wrong side of … = be older than (a certain age).
“He’s on the wrong side of 40.”

(You can also be on the right side of a certain age, which means you’re younger than that age.)

be pushing … = be almost (a certain age)
“I know she looks like a teenager, but she’s pushing 30 you know!”

not look your age = appear younger than you are
“She really doesn’t look her age.”

(We also say “act your age” to mean that you behave in a way that’s right for your age: “Act your age! You’re at secondary school now – not at infants’ school.”

not look a day over … = look young for your age
“She looks so good for her age. She doesn’t look a day over 60!”

Beauty

a head-turner = so beautiful / handsome that people turn their heads to look at you
“Both their daughters are head-turners.”

eye-catching = so beautiful / handsome that people notice you immediately
“The woman who works in the shop is so eye-catching.”

easy on the eye = nice to look at (this is a little old-fashioned)
“He’s very easy on the eye, isn’t he.”

drop-dead gorgeous = very beautiful / handsome
“Her new boyfriend is drop-dead gorgeous.”

tall, dark and handsome = a stereotypical description of a handsome man
“So the fortune-teller told me I’d meet a tall, dark and handsome stranger.”

the picture of … (health / loveliness) = look exactly like someone who is healthy / lovely, etc
“You’re the picture of loveliness this morning!”

not much to look at = not very attractive
“Her new boyfriend isn’t much to look at, but he’s a seriously nice guy.”

not a pretty sight = unattractive
“I’m not a pretty sight in the morning.”

look like the back end of a bus = very ugly
“Frankly, I look like the back end of a bus before I put my makeup on!”

Body size

a beanpole = very thin (bean poles are poles put in the ground for beans to grow up)
“He was like a beanpole all the way through school.”

as thin as a rake = be very thin
“She’s lost a lot of weight and now she’s as thin as a rake.”

to balloon = become fat quickly
“Since she moved to the city, she’s ballooned in weight. She says it’s because she always takes public transport and never walks anywhere.”

a bit on the large side = be a bit overweight
“He’s been a bit on the large side ever since he stopped smoking.”

Clothes And Style

have good dress sense / have a sense of style = to know what clothes to wear
“His wife has very good dress sense. She always looks great.”

be a slave to fashion = follow fashion and buy a lot of clothes
“My children have become slaves to fashion since they started secondary school.”

be dressed to kill = wear clothes to impress people
“You’re dressed to kill today. Have you got an important meeting?”

look like you’ve been dragged through the hedge backwards = look scruffy and untidy
“You can’t go out like that! You look like you’ve been dragged through the hedge backwards!”


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