Vocabulary Builders: Expressive Phrases, Page 1 (A)

This section of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com focuses on expressive phrases. Use these literary expressions to develop your vocabulary and enhance your writing

Looking for words and phrases to enrich poetry and creative writing? This classic collection from Grenville Kleiser provides plenty of expressive phrases.

You can review these lists when you seek extra power in written literary works. You can also use them to develop your vocabulary. First, see if you can determine meanings of each word you don't know by studying the context of the phrase that contains the unknown word. Then, confirm your impressions by looking up and learning each unfamiliar word.


A bitterness crept into her face

A blazing blue sky poured down torrents of light

A book to beguile the tedious hours

A brave but turbulent aristocracy

A broad, complacent, admiring imbecility breathed from his nose and lips

A burlesque feint of evading a blow

A callous and conscienceless brute

A calm and premeditated prudence

A calmness settled on his spirit

A campaign of unbridled ferocity

A carefully appraising eye

A ceaselessly fleeting sky

A certain implication of admiring confidence

A charming air of vigor and vitality

A childish belief in his own impeccability

A cold, hard, frosty penuriousness was his prevalent characteristic

A compassion perfectly angelic

A constant stream of rhythmic memories

A covertly triumphant voice

A creature of the most delicate and rapid responses

A crop of disappointments

A cunning intellect patiently diverting every circumstance to its design

A curious and inexplicable uneasiness

A curious vexation fretted her

A daily avalanche of vituperation

A dandified, pretty-boy-looking sort of figure

A dark and relentless fate

A day monotonous and colorless

A dazzling completeness of beauty

A deep and brooding resentment

A delicious throng of sensations

A deliciously tantalizing sense

A detached segment of life

A dire monotony of bookish idiom

A disheveled and distraught figure

A face singularly acute and intelligent

A faint accent of reproach

A faint sense of compunction moved her

A faint, transient, wistful smile lightened her brooding face

A faint tremor of amusement was on his lips

A faintly quizzical look came into his incisive stare

A fawn-colored sea streaked here and there with tints of deepest orange

A fever of enthusiasm

A few tears came to soften her seared vision

A fiery exclamation of wrath and disdain

A figure full of decision and dignity

A firm and balanced manhood

A first faint trace of irritation

A fitful boy full of dreams and hopes

A flame of scarlet crept in a swift diagonal across his cheeks

A fleeting and furtive air of triumph

A flood of pride rose in him

A foreboding of some destined change

A fortuitous series of happy thoughts

A frigid touch of the hand

A fugitive intangible charm

A gay exuberance of ambition

A generation of men lavishly endowed with genius

A gentle sarcasm ruffled her anger

A ghastly whiteness overspread the cheek

A glance of extraordinary meaning

A glassy expression of inattention

A glassy stare of deprecating horror

A glittering infectious smile

A gloom overcame him

A golden haze of pensive light

A golden summer of marvelous fertility

A graceful readiness and vigor

A grave man of pretending exterior

A great pang gripped her heart

A great process of searching and shifting

A great sickness of heart smote him

A great soul smitten and scourged, but still invested with the dignity of immortality

A grim and shuddering fascination

A gush of entrancing melody

A gusty breeze blew her hair about unheeded

A half-breathless murmur of amazement and incredulity

A half-uneasy, half-laughing compunction

A harassing anxiety of sorrow

A harvest of barren regrets

A haunting and horrible sense of insecurity

A heavy oppression seemed to brood upon the air

A helpless anger simmered in him

A hint of death in the icy breath of the gale

A hot and virulent skirmish

A hot uprush of hatred and loathing

A kind of ineffable splendor crowns the day

A lapse from the well-ordered decencies of civilization

A large, rich, copious human endowment

A late star lingered, remotely burning

A laugh of jovial significance

A light of unwonted pleasure in her eyes [unwonted = unusual]

A little jaded by gastronomical exertions

A lukewarm and selfish love

A man of imperious will [imperious = arrogantly domineering]

A man of matchless modesty and refinement

A manner bright with interest and interrogation

A manner nervously anxious to please

A melancholy monotone beat on one's heart

A mere exhibition of fussy diffuseness

A mere figment of a poet's fancy

A mien and aspect singularly majestic

A mild and deprecating air

A mind singularly practical and sagacious

A mouth of inflexible decision

A murmur of complacency

A mystery everlastingly impenetrable

A nameless sadness which is always born of moonlight

A new and overmastering impulse

A new doubt assailed her

A new marvel of the sky

A new trouble was dawning on his thickening mental horizon

A nimble-witted opponent

A painful thought was flooding his mind

A pang of jealousy not unmingled with scorn

A patience worthy of admiration

A perfect carnival of fun

A perfect crime of clumsiness

A piteous aspect of woe

A portent full of possible danger

A potion to be delicately supped at leisure

A powerful agitation oppressed him

A prevailing sentiment of uneasy discontent

A prey to listless uneasiness

A profound and absorbing interest

A profound and eager hopefulness

A profound and rather irritating egotist by nature

A prop for my faint heart

A propitious sky, marbled with pearly white

A protest wavered on her lip

A puissant and brilliant family

A queer, uncomfortable perplexity began to invade her

A quick flame leaped in his eyes

A quick shiver ruffled the brooding stillness of the water

A quiver of resistance ran through her

A remarkable fusion of morality and art

A random gleam of light

A rare and dazzling order of beauty

A rhythmical torrent of eloquent prophecy

A river of shame swept over him

A sad inquiry seemed to dwell in her gaze

A satisfied sense of completeness

A secret sweeter than the sea or sky can whisper

A sensation of golden sweetness and delight

A sense of desolation and disillusionment overwhelmed me

A sense of infinite peace brooded over the place

A sense of meditative content

A sense of repression was upon her

A sentiment of distrust in its worth had crept into her thoughts

A sheaf of letters

A shimmer of golden sun shaking through the trees

A shiver of apprehension crisped her skin

A shuffling compromise between defiance and prostration

A sigh of large contentment

A sight for the angels to weep over

A skepticism which prompted rebellion

A slight movement of incredulous dissent

A smile full of subtle charm

A smile of exquisite urbanity

A soft insidious plea

A soft intonation of profound sorrow

A soft suspicion of ulterior motives

A solemn glee possessed my mind

A solemn gray expanse that lost itself far away in the gray of the sea

A solemn utterance of destiny

A somber and breathless calm hung over the deepening eve

A somewhat melancholy indolence

A somewhat sharp and incisive voice

A sonorous voice bade me enter

A soothing and quieting touch was gently laid upon her soul

A sort of eager, almost appealing amiability

A sort of stolid despairing acquiescence

A sort of stunned incredulity

A soundless breeze that was little more than a whisper

A spacious sense of the amplitude of life's possibilities

A staccato cough interrupted the flow of speech

A state of sullen self-absorption

A steady babble of talk and laughter

A step was at her heels

A stifling sensation of pain and suspense

A stinging wind swept the woods

A strange compound of contradictory elements

A stream of easy talk

A strong convulsion shook the vague indefinite form

A strong susceptibility to the ridiculous

A subtle emphasis of scorn

A sudden and stinging delight

A sudden gleam of insight

A sudden uncontrollable outburst of feeling

A super-abundance of boisterous animal spirits

A supercilious scorn and pity

A super-refinement of taste

A swaggering air of braggadocio

A sweet bewilderment of tremulous apprehension

A sweet, quiet, sacred, stately seclusion

A swift knowledge came to her

A swift unformulated fear

A swiftly unrolling panorama of dreams

A tangle of ugly words

A thousand evanescent memories of happy days

A thousand unutterable fears bore irresistible despotism over her thoughts

A time of disillusion followed

A tiny stream meandering amiably

A tone of arduous admiration

A torn and tumultuous sky

A total impression ineffable and indescribable

A tragic futility

A treacherous throb of her voice

A true similitude of what befalls many men and women

A tumult of vehement feeling

A tumultuous rush of sensations

A twinge of embarrassment

A vague and wistful melancholy

A vast sweet silence crept through the trees

A veritable spring-cleaning of the soul

A very practised and somewhat fastidious critic

A violent and mendacious tongue

A vivid and arresting presentation

A waking dream overshadowed her

A weird world of morbid horrors

A well-bred mixture of boldness and courtesy

A wild vivacity was in her face and manner

A wile of the devil's

A wind strayed through the gardens

A withering sensation of ineffable boredom

A wordless farewell

Absolutely vulgarized by too perpetual a parroting

Absorbed in a stream of thoughts and reminiscences

Absorbed in the scent and murmur of the night

Accidents which perpetually deflect our vagrant attention

Across the gulf of years

Administering a little deft though veiled castigation

Affected an ironic incredulity

Affecting a tone of gayety

After a first moment of reluctance

After an eternity of resolutions, doubts, and indecisions

Aghast at his own helplessness

Agitated and enthralled by day-dreams

Agitated with violent and contending emotions

Alien paths and irrelevant junketings

All embrowned and mossed with age

All her gift of serene immobility brought into play

All hope of discreet reticence was ripped to shreds

All the lesser lights paled into insignificance

All the magic of youth and joy of life was there

All the place is peopled with sweet airs

All the sky was mother-of-pearl and tender

All the unknown of the night and of the universe was pressing upon him

All the world was flooded with a soft golden light

All was a vague jumble of chaotic impressions

All was incomprehensible

All was instinctive and spontaneous

Aloof from the motley throng

Ambition shivered into fragments

Amid distress and humiliation

Amid the direful calamities of the time

An acute note of distress in her voice

An agreeably grave vacuity

An air half quizzical and half deferential

An air of affected civility

An air of being meticulously explicit

An air of inimitable, scrutinizing, superb impertinence

An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all

An air of uncanny familiarity

An air which was distinctly critical

An almost pathetic appearance of ephemeral fragility

An almost riotous prodigality of energy

An answering glow of gratitude

An antagonist worth her steel

An artful stroke of policy

An assumption of hostile intent

An assurance of good-nature that forestalled hostility

An atmosphere of extraordinary languor

An atmosphere thick with flattery and toadyism

An attack of peculiar virulence and malevolence

An audacious challenge of ridicule

An avidity that bespoke at once the restlessness and the genius of her mind

An awe crept over me

An eager and thirsty ear

An easy prey to the powers of folly

An effusive air of welcome

An equal degree of well-bred worldly cynicism

An erect, martial, majestic, and imposing personage

An eternity of silence oppressed him

An expression of mildly humorous surprise

An expression of rare and inexplicable personal energy

An exquisite perception of things beautiful and rare

An iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart

An ignoring eye

An impenetrable screen of foliage

An impersonal and slightly ironic interest

An impervious beckoning motion

An inarticulate echo of his longing

An increased gentleness of aspect

An incursion of the loud, the vulgar and meretricious

An inexplicable and uselessly cruel caprice of fate

An inexpressible fervor of serenity

An ingratiating, awkward and, wistful grace

An inspired ray was in his eyes

An instant she stared unbelievingly

An intense and insatiable hunger for light and truth

An intense travail of mind

An obscure thrill of alarm

An odd little air of penitent self-depreciation

An open wit and recklessness of bearing

An oppressive sense of strange sweet odor

An optimistic after-dinner mood

An overburdening sense of the inexpressible

An uncomfortable premonition of fear

An unfailing sweetness and unerring perception

An unpleasant and heavy sensation sat at his heart

An unredeemed dreariness of thought

An unsuspected moral obtuseness

An utter depression of soul

And day peers forth with her blank eyes

And what is all this pother about?

Animated by noble pride

Anticipation painted the world in rose

Appalled in speechless disgust

Appealing to the urgent temper of youth

Apprehensive solicitude about the future

Ardent words of admiration

Armed all over with subtle antagonisms

Artless and unquestioning devotion

As if smitten by a sudden spasm

As the long train sweeps away into the golden distance

August and imperial names in the kingdom of thought

Awaiting his summons to the eternal silence

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Editor's note: This section of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com is excerpted and adapted from Project Gutenberg's Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases, by Grenville Kleiser.

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