How to describe a half smile

How to describe a half smile

Sometimes, you need your character to smile. But, you don’t want him to have a big ol’ cheesy grin on his face. Maybe he’s smiling through pain, maybe he’s sad. Whatever the reason is, using the right description can go a long way to showing your readers what your character is feeling without directly telling them. 

Here are some examples you can use to improve the description of your character’s smile. I’ve broken the list down into categories, but please know, some of these terms could be categorically interchangeable.


  • Tender smile
    • He flashed her a tender smile after she professed her undying love to him.
  • Suggestive smile
    • She put her glass of wine down on the coffee table and gave him a suggestive smile as she rubbed his inner thigh. 
  • Timid smile
    • He watched his crush from afar, waiting for her to notice him.  When their eyes finally met, a timid smile crept across his face.


  • Sly smile
    •  It didn’t take long to identify the prankster, her sly smile gave her away among the see of horrified expressions.
  • Smirk
    • The smirks on the audience’s faces let him know how funny his joke was.


  • Teasing smile
    • She laughed through a teasing smile at his joke.
  • Wry smile
    • The child’s wry smile shined as he watched the clown perform silly tricks at the circus.


  • Fond smile 
    • She flashed her a fond smile as she wrapped her arms around her best friend.
  • Subtle smile
    • As the conversation carried on, he allowed a subtle smile to cross his lips. He was lucky to have a friend like her.
  • Warm smile
    • It had been a rough couple of weeks, but she couldn’t resist giving a warm smile to the postman when he delivered the holiday cards. 

I hope you found these alternate descriptions of a half smile helpful. Do you have other ways to describe this expression? Let me know in the comments!

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Published by Tim Koster

Tim Koster is an American author who was born and raised in Portland, Maine. After graduating from Deering High School, Tim attended Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, where he studied English with an emphasis on creative writing. In his junior year, Tim enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve as a public affairs specialist and deployed on two combat missions – his first was to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn (2011) and his second was to Syria in Support of Operation Inherent Resolve (2018). Tim currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.

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