The yellow-eyed babbler is about 18 centimetres (7.1 in) long with a short bill and a long graduated tail. The body above is brown and the wings are cinnamon coloured. The lores and supercilium are white and the rim of the eye is orange-yellow in adult birds. The beak is black. The underside is whitish buff. The central tail feathers are about twice as long as the outermost. The sexes are indistinguishable in the field.
Within its wide distribution range there are some differences in plumages
between populations that have been considered as subspecies. The nominate subspecies is found in Burma, Laos and Thailand. The population in Sri Lanka, nasale, has black nostrils and a stouter bill.The population across much of India, hypoleucum, has yellow nostrils (as with the nominate subspecies) and is paler in plumage. The population in the northeast Duars of India has an almost slaty crown and darker wings and has been called as saturatius or saturatior but this is considered as clinal variation and included in the nominate population.