Definition of countenance in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkaʊnt(ə)nəns/


1A person’s face or facial expression: his impenetrable eyes and inscrutable countenance give little away
More example sentences
  • He inwardly grinned along with Elizabeth, but both of them kept impassive countenances in front of their son.
  • Several portraits feature beautiful faces, some with deeply lined, wizened countenances.
  • The servant, as that was now what he all-too-obviously was, prayed no one would notice his slip of the tongue, but clearly they remained unanswered by the expressions on everyone's surprised and confused countenances.
face, features, physiognomy, profile;
facial expression, expression, look, appearance, aspect, mien
informal mug, clock
British informal mush, dial, phizog, phiz
British rhyming slang boat race
Scottish & Irish informal coupon
Northern Irish informal bake
North American informal puss, pan
literary visage, lineaments
archaic front
2 [mass noun] Support or approval: she was giving her specific countenance to the occasion
More example sentences
  • The man, appropriately, shone his countenance approvingly upon her.
  • We all know the ABC would never give countenance to the perverted influence of base and vulgar advertising.
  • Is there any parent who would argue for, or countenance, the early evacuation of one sick child from an Intensive Care Unit bed in favour of their own child?


[with object]
Admit as acceptable or possible: he was reluctant to countenance the use of force
More example sentences
  • Not coincidentally, this came just as he was countenancing the possibility of employing his services elsewhere.
  • Capital punishment has been outlawed most places, and even where it is allowed, brutality of that kind would not be countenanced.
  • We think countenancing any other position would totally undermine our members going about their duty and put them at phenomenal risk.
tolerate, permit, allow, admit of, approve (of), agree to, consent to, give one's blessing to, take kindly to, be in favour of, favour, hold with, go along with, put up with, endure, brook, stomach, swallow, bear;
Scottish  thole
informal stand for, stick, hack, give the go ahead to, give the green light to, give the thumbs up to, give the okay to
North American rare approbate



keep one's countenance

Maintain one’s composure, especially by refraining from laughter.
Example sentences
  • For my part I decided that for once in my life it was wisest to keep my countenance.
  • Party leaders, however, apparently kept their countenance to avoid getting involved in any issues related to party reform.[, waiting to see what President Chen wanted, Hong said.]
  • Rachel could continue to sense his scrutiny, and because of that kept her countenance strictly controlled.

keep someone in countenance

Help someone to remain calm and confident: to keep herself in countenance she opened her notebook
More example sentences
  • It is his[Putin's] reward for letting the [ABM] treaty go down the tubes without throwing a temper tantrum, and it keeps him in countenance at home.
  • This, however, serves to keep me in countenance, that others, endowed with much superior knowledge, and quicker penetration, have not been more successful than myself.
  • But the thought of having that venerable hero to keep me in countenance emboldens me to risk everything; I am no older than he.

out of countenance

Disconcerted or unpleasantly surprised: I put him clean out of countenance just by looking at him
More example sentences
  • Let death itself stare him in the face, he will presumptuously maintain his hope, as if he would look the grim messenger out of countenance.
  • Perpetual pushing and assurance put a difficulty out of countenance, and make a seeming impossibility give way.
  • The fox was too wily to be put out of countenance by even such a surprise as this.


Middle English: from Old French contenance 'bearing, behaviour', from contenir (see contain). The early sense was 'bearing, demeanour', also 'facial expression', hence 'the face'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: coun¦ten|ance

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