You look like a million dollars! (Describing appearances)

Choose what makes you happyby Kate Woodford

Describing other people’s appearances is something most of us do now and then. We might do it in order to ask who someone is: ‘Who was the very smart guy in the blue suit?’ Sometimes we describe how other people look simply because we find it interesting: ‘Sophie always looks so elegant – not a hair out of place!’ If you’d like to expand your vocabulary for describing how people look, read on!

There are a number of positive adjectives for people who are clean and tidy in their appearance. In UK English smart is the most frequent of these, describing someone who looks clean, tidy and also slightly formal.  In US English sharp means the same thing, with the added meaning of ‘fashionable’: You look very smart/sharp in that blue jacket.

An adjective that emphasizes how clean and tidy someone looks is spruce. Someone who is spruce looks as if they’ve just had a shower: He looked spruce and handsome in a clean, white shirt.

Two other ‘clean and tidy’ adjectives – clean-cut and dapper – have extra meanings. ‘Clean-cut’ suggests that a clean and tidy person is also well-behaved and respectable: As an actor, he had a very clean-cut image. ‘Dapper’ is used of smart, neat men whose clothes suggest they have made an effort with their appearance: He was looking very dapper in his nice grey suit.

The words groomed and well-groomed are used of both sexes for people whose neat appearances show that they have made an effort with their hair, skin, and clothes: Camille’s mother was always very well-groomed.

Elegant and glamorous are two more approving adjectives that relate to appearance. An elegant person looks attractive, in a simple and graceful way: an elegant woman. A person who looks glamorous has clothes, hair and make-up that are attractive in a way that gets attention: glamorous movie stars 

There are idioms in this area too. If you look like a million dollars (US)/ look a million dollars (UK) in a particular piece of clothing, you look very attractive and special: You look like a million dollars in that dress! Someone who does not have a hair out of place is very neat, with every detail perfect: Lara is always perfect – not a hair out of place. If you are dressed up to the nines, you are wearing very smart or fashionable clothes for a special occasion: Where are you going, all dressed up to the nines?

Of course, we can’t look perfect all the time! A person who looks untidy may be described as dishevelled (UK)/disheveled (US): He had a slightly dishevelled appearance.

Someone who is untidy and looks a little dirty may be described as scruffy: He was a small, scruffy-looking man. Another word for this is unkempt: We hadn’t showered for a week and were looking rather unkempt.

Finally, there are some (slightly unkind!) idioms for people who look untidy and dirty. You might informally say that they look like something the cat brought/dragged inI don’t know where he’d been but, honestly, he looked like something the cat had dragged in! You might instead say they look as if they have been dragged through a hedge backwards: I’d just got up and looked as if I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards!

19 thoughts on “You look like a million dollars! (Describing appearances)

  1. Thank you, Kate, for one more amazing article.
    Hope you don’t mind my asking two questions here.
    Do scruffy, disheveled and unkempt all give an image of uncombed hair?
    If a person does take a shower and comb his hair, but not change his spotted and wrinkled clothes, do we say he is scruffy, disheveled and unkempt?

    Having Looked up disheveled online, I found some people used the phrase ‘a disheveled week.’ Here is an example:
    ‘It was a slightly disheveled week as we were only in need of finishing up work from the week prior that we’d not accomplished yet.’
    I think the writer means he was very busy and barely had time to groom himself. Is it natural to use the word this way.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi prudent! The adjectives you mentioned convey a general impression of untidiness, so not specifically or uniquely untidy hair but rather the overall appearance. (That said, untidy hair and clothes often go together!) Regarding the ‘disheveled week’, that seems to me an unusual use. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used this way. Best wishes!

  2. FHK

    My friend, a young politician, in his mid-twenties who looks glamorous is usually well-groomed. But as he’s just come out of six-month prison, he looked disheveled in the way as if he’s been dragged through a hedge backwards.
    Fantastic post! Thank you.

  3. Maryem Salama

    Once, I heard a man from an Arabic country describing his friend saying ‘Where are you going, all dressed up to the clothesline? It is very similar to an idiom here. Thank you, Kate

  4. IworshiptheLord

    Very good ! I’ve learnt a lot ! Thank you Kate !

    But I found it a little too long… Maybe you could make such articles in two parts, please, for people who don’t have enough time (like me) ?

    But that was very interesting, well done and thanks again !

  5. Blog is have Meaningful …One can express cleanliness by washing his body and face and clothes with water, a good smell , good attitude and Respect others … This is a good appearance

  6. Reblogged this on Pooja Subhash and commented:
    I read your blog and that was amazing!
    I recently wrote my first blog ( realityspotblog.wordpress.com )
    Is the site , please do read it and it will be very nice if you give suggestions too!
    Thank you

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