What is exactly the difference between “gaze” and “stare”?

According to dictionaries, they both mean “to look steadily at somebody / something”.


This has been asked before on ELU, where what I think is the best answer says…

Stare – look for a long time with the eyes wide open, especially when surprised, frightened or thinking

Gaze – look at something or someone for a long time, especially in surprise, admiration or because you are thinking about something else.

I wouldn’t make too much of that italicised distinction though. Note these usage figures…

gazed absent-mindedly (2220 hits in Google Books)
stared absent-mindedly (2480 hits)

…where I doubt it would make any real difference if every single usage were reversed.

However, there’s at least one context where idiomatically the two words are not at all interchangeable. That’s when stare is used to mean gawp, rubberneck, goggle (stare openly in a stupid or rude manner).

Suppose, for example, in the supermarket with your child, you’re behind wheelchair-bound paraplegic Stephen Hawking in the checkout queue. Your child may well be fascinated, but what you say is…

Don’t stare! [at him] (in such contexts, no-one ever says Don’t gaze!).

Source : Link , Question Author : Dragon Buster , Answer Author : Community

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