Polyprion americanus has a deep and robust body that can reach up to 2 m in length. It has a large head with a rough bony ridge across the upper part of the gill. It has 11 spines on its dorsal fin and as many rays, the second part of the fin being much taller. The anal fin has three spines and 8-10 soft rays. The pelvic fins are longer than the pectoral fins. Its body is a uniform brown to bluish-grey with a silvery sheen. Juveniles may have irregular light and dark marblings on the head and body.
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