The Cape weaver is a stocky 17 cm long bird with streaked olive-brown upperparts and a long pointed conical bill.

The breeding male has a yellow head and underparts, an orange face, and a white iris.

The adult female has an olive-yellow head and breast, shading to pale yellow on the lower belly. The female’s eyes are brown, but 19% have pale eyes in summer and thus eye colour alone cannot be used to determine the sex. Young birds are similar to the female.