Definition of face in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /feɪs/


1The front part of a person’s head from the forehead to the chin, or the corresponding part in an animal: she was scarlet in the face and perspiring profusely
More example sentences
  • My voice broke and the tears fell down my face as I wrapped my arms around his solid torso.
  • It would be interesting to know is whether people with symmetrical faces have longer life expectancies.
  • In his dream he looked upon the moon and saw the face of the goddess looking down upon her people.
countenance, physiognomy, profile, features
informal mug, kisser, 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
1.1An expression shown on the face: the happy faces of these children
More example sentences
  • I watched some pretty serious faces as shooters battled it out for 15th or 20th place in a category.
  • I looked around the room, watching the girls' faces change from looks of accusation to pity and understanding.
  • I joked, watching as their faces twist with frustration, annoyed that I was avoiding the subject.
expression, facial expression, look, appearance, air, manner, bearing, countenance, guise, cast, aspect, impression
formal mien
1.2An aspect of something: the unacceptable face of social drinking
More example sentences
  • Here was a problem that amounted to rather more than an unsightly flaw on the face of the splendid facade of classical physics.
  • These mountain are most assuredly another of the distinctive four faces of Algeria.
  • Although alcoholism remains the number one dependency problem among judges and lawyers, the face of addiction continues to change.
(outward) appearance, aspect, air, nature, image
2The surface of a thing, especially one that is presented to the view or has a particular function, in particular:
2.1 Geometry Each of the surfaces of a solid: the faces of a cube
More example sentences
  • To solve the problem, Vinson opted to use polyhedra that have more vertices than faces.
  • The faces of the polyhedron appear to consist of two equilateral triangles and six somewhat irregular pentagons.
  • This time, it had the shape of a trapezoid on four faces, making it look like a thimble with four right angles.
side, aspect, flank, vertical, surface, plane, facet, wall, elevation;
front, frontage, facade;
2.2A vertical or sloping side of a mountain or cliff: the north face of the Eiger
More example sentences
  • These have produced scarps with vertical cliff faces up to 800 meters high.
  • Springs can occur in uplands if zones of perched water extend laterally to cliff faces or other steep slopes.
  • Such people were the first to leave the cave and see what was on the other side of the cliff face.
2.3The side of a planet or moon facing the observer: we can often see the dark face of the moon by earthshine
More example sentences
  • As one resident put it to this writer last week, the surface of the stretch of road in question is like the face of the moon.
  • Beyond, the grey light was coming and going as clouds chased each other across the face of the moon.
  • Then the heavens ripped asunder and showered evil and ill omens upon the face of this beckoning planet.
2.4The front of a building: a series of loggias make up the face of the church
More example sentences
  • The glazed faces of the building terminate campus circulation routes.
  • The four distinct faces of the building force a process of scanning and mental reassembly at the scale of the whole wall.
  • The windows on these faces look into narrow protected alleys or the small courtyard between the houses.
2.5The plate of a clock or watch bearing the digits or hands: a dial like the face of a clock
More example sentences
  • And I love how one of the clock faces of the Fendi Secret Dual Time watch is always very subtly covered.
  • Watch faces, found at flea markets and removed from their bands, are arranged precisely on a tray.
  • Here, traditional analogue clocks with crisp modern faces sit within achingly fashionable hoods.
dial, display
2.6The distinctive side of a playing card: she scattered a deck of cards face down
More example sentences
  • Others drank from flasks and clay bottles, or huddled together to read futures from the faces of playing cards.
  • The faces of the cards in a pack may all be unique, or may include duplicates, depending on the game.
  • On the face of each card is a number - there are two cards of each number from 1 to 12.
2.7The obverse of a coin.
Example sentences
  • But high returns and high risk are two faces of the same coin.
  • He drew a quick rendition of the two faces of the coin the Lujar had shown him.
  • The poet's eye can see the two faces of the coin simultaneously.
3 [with adjective] A person of a particular type: this season’s squad has a lot of old faces in it
More example sentences
  • There are many familiar faces among this year's performers.
  • The cast will include some familiar old faces and a few great newcomers, for which, by the way, the group are always on the lookout.
  • Most are natives of the parish who have returned to spend time with family and friends, good to see the old familiar faces once again.
4 short for typeface.
Example sentences
  • Not only are the messages different on each side, but the advertising line is also printed in two type sizes and faces.
  • You may use either a variation of the serif font or a contrasting sans serif face for the display type.
  • The most conventional scheme for using typefaces is to use a serif face such as Times New Roman or Georgia for body text and a sans serif face such as Verdana or Arial as a contrast for headlines.


[with object]
1Be positioned with the face or front towards (someone or something): he turned to face her
More example sentences
  • But if the same side of the Moon always faces Earth, there should be no lunar tides.
  • On the bungalow the porch faces the ocean.
  • Frankie sat facing the door that opened onto the back porch.
look out on, front on to, look towards, be facing, have/afford/command a view of, look over/across, open out over, look on to, overlook, give on to, give over, be opposite (to)
1.1 [no object, with adverbial of direction] Have the face or front pointing in a specified direction: the house faces due east
More example sentences
  • This building faces onto Blaxland road and Lane Cove road.
  • Although most rock shelters open on three sides, the Eagle Rock site faces north and is open on only one side.
  • A breakfast room, which has recently been added onto the kitchen, faces onto the courtyard through a French door.
1.2 [no object, with adverbial of direction] (Of a soldier) turn in a particular direction: the men had faced about to the front
More example sentences
  • At the execution command "Face", the soldier swivels on his right heel and left toes, through a 90-degree (right) angle to his right.
  • For the movement Right Face, the preparatory command is "Right....", followed by the execution command "Face."
  • When Sarge barks, "About face!" he applies the same command to everyone in the platoon, and each soldier executes the command at the same time.
2Confront and deal with or accept: honesty forced her to face facts [no object]: he was too old to face up to the responsibilities of his position
More example sentences
  • I am delighted that Scotland on Sunday is forcing society to face up to the crisis in our schools.
  • We must not be afraid to face up to and express the cause and nature of those fears.
  • It has been an ordeal, but sometimes, we just have to face up to things, ya know?
accept, come to accept, become reconciled to, reconcile oneself to, reach an acceptance (of), get used to, become accustomed to, adjust to, accommodate oneself to, acclimatize oneself to;
learn to live with, cope with, deal with, come to terms with, get to grips with, become resigned to, make the best of;
confront, meet head-on
brave, face up to, encounter, meet, meet head-on, confront, dare, defy, oppose, resist, withstand
2.1Have (a difficult situation) in prospect: each defendant faced a maximum sentence of 10 years
More example sentences
  • Judge Scott also warned that she could face up to four months in prison if she failed to complete the order.
  • If caught, pirate broadcasters face up to two years in jail and unlimited fines.
  • They will be sentenced next month and could face up to two years imprisonment for each vehicle.
be confronted by, be faced with, encounter, experience, come into contact with, run into, come across, meet, come up against, be forced to contend with
2.2(Of a problem or difficult situation) present itself to and require action from (someone): the difficulties facing British farming
More example sentences
  • Hence, humanity is faced with a different warfare that of spiritual and moral warfare.
  • That's the bottom line city councillors were faced with this week as they continued along the 2004 budget path.
  • In the past, novice readers who hoped to understand a classic text were faced with having to negotiate layers of annotation.
beset, worry, distress, cause trouble to, trouble, bother, confront, burden;
harass, oppress, vex, irritate, exasperate, strain, stress, tax;
torment, plague, blight, bedevil, rack, smite, curse, harrow
rare discommode
2.3 (face someone/thing down) Overcome someone or something by a show of determination: he climbed atop a tank to face down a coup
More example sentences
  • Others criticise the police for wanting to ‘contain’ sectarian fans rather than face them down and arrest them wholesale.
  • Zacchaeus had the guts to face them down: ‘he stood his ground’ - but not on his dignity.
  • There are moments when I feel tired by this, and drained, but then I get up the following morning and decide I'm going to face these people down.
stand up to, outface, cow, overawe, intimidate, browbeat, confront, beard, outstare, stare out/down, defy
3Cover the surface of (something) with a layer of a different material: the external basement walls were faced with granite slabs
More example sentences
  • Dining room and kitchen cabinets and drawers are faced with predominantly gray and blue laminate.
  • The pedestal or ground floor of the main building is faced with granite from Little Cottonwood Canyon.
  • If you turn off Tottenham Court Road onto Chenies Street you will see in front of you a building faced with a stone which reflects like a mirror on a sunny day.
cover, clad, veneer, skin, overlay, surface, dress, pave, put a facing on, laminate, inlay, plate, coat, line



face down (or downwards)

With the face or surface turned towards the ground: he lay face down on his bed
More example sentences
  • He grinned, and lay face down on the ground, taking up nearly all the space in the room.
  • Landulf wept and lay face down on the ground until the emperor sent his proceres over to raise him up and bring him.
  • Lie face down on the ground, with your hands under your chin and your elbows tucked in close to your body.

someone's face fits

British Someone has the necessary qualities for something: if your face didn’t fit they could get rid of you within twelve months
More example sentences
  • But he would be well advised not to treat the game too lightly when faced with the task of ensuring his face fits at the Edinburgh club.
  • If your face fits, you'll get the job.

face the music

Be confronted with the unpleasant consequences of one’s actions: we would later have to face the music over our bold moves
More example sentences
  • But unless you are in the top 50 then you have to face the music, and the music is that you're not in the tournament.
  • This is my fear - being confronted with my irresponsibility, facing the music of my selfishness, learning that I've been caught doing my most embarrassing action.
  • The main perpetrator has not been found and Shane is here facing the music.

the face of the earth

Used for emphasis, to refer to the existence or disappearance of someone or something: he’s just disappeared off the face of the earth
More example sentences
  • Within 30 hours of the move she had gone - disappeared off the face of the earth.
  • Common sense seems to be disappearing off the face of the earth.
  • I can't remember whether she said this was going to happen or has she just disappeared off the face of the earth?

face up (or upwards)

With the face or surface turned upwards to view: place the panel face up before cutting
More example sentences
  • Let's start with cards on the table face upwards.
  • Placing an object face upwards so as to be visible to a friend a hundred miles away would be to put it in the public sphere.
  • We'd deal a hand each, put the rest of the deck between us, turn the top card on the deck face up, and begin.

get out of someone's face

[usually as imperative] North American informal Stop harassing or annoying someone: shut up and get out of my face
More example sentences
  • I'm sorry, but you wouldn't get out of my face so I had to say something to make you stop.
  • He said that they wouldn't get out of his face and were calling him all sorts of ugly names.
  • I'm tired, I'm hungry, I have no money, I'm going to lose my job and I'm going to fail my junior year of high school if you don't get out of my face.

have the face to do something

British dated Have the effrontery to do something.
Example sentences
  • I wonder he had the face to talk so: but he lent me money, and that's enough.
  • And now, instantly after that amazing and mad generosity, she had the face to look cross because he would not buy Wilbraham Hall!
effrontery, audacity, nerve, gall, brazenness, brashness, shamelessness;
defiance, boldness, temerity, impudence, impertinence, insolence, presumption, presumptuousness, forwardness, cheek, cheekiness;
impoliteness, unmannerliness, bad manners, rudeness
informal brass, brass neck, neck, cockiness
British informal sauce
Scottish informal snash
North American informal sass, sassiness, chutzpah
informal, dated hide
British informal, dated crust

in one's face

Directly at or against one; as one approaches: she slammed the door in my face
More example sentences
  • So we have no public policy and that has a very - a very bad effect on our scientists because they don't know what to do because the door might be slammed in their face.
  • I'm not the sort of person who can brusquely say ‘not today thank you’ and slam the door firmly in their face.
  • I have visited hundreds of people and had the door slammed in my face.

in face (or the face) of

When confronted with: her resolution in the face of the enemy
More example sentences
  • This does not mean that you should do nothing in the face of adversity or confrontation.
  • While the game is about individuals in the face of confrontation, it is also about partnerships.
  • As a group they command very little respect, but they must stand firm in the face of any confrontation.
9.1Despite: reform had been introduced in the face of considerable opposition
More example sentences
  • On the other hand, he's had a successful career despite this and smiled in the face of adversity.
  • When asked how she keeps going in the face of all her challenges, she smiles quietly.
  • They are also working to predict future demand in the face of further housing development.

lose face

Be humiliated or come to be less highly respected: the code of conduct required that he strike back or lose face
More example sentences
  • Also, asking for clarification may indicate lack of expertise and people don't want to lose face in doing that.
  • Many leaders don't want to lose face by admitting failures.
respect, honour, esteem, regard, admiration, approbation, acclaim, approval, favour, appreciation, popularity, estimation, veneration, awe, reverence, deference, recognition, prestige, standing, status, dignity, glory, kudos, cachet, image;
self-respect, self-esteem, self-image

loss of face

Humiliation: he could step aside now without loss of face
More example sentences
  • When working with victims of partner or marital violence, the entry point to rapport building is to acknowledge victims' feelings of guilt, shame, and loss of face about seeking help.
  • I've incurred so many: loss of face (quite literally), cuts, bruises, lost tooth, a mysterious ‘third knee’ etc. etc.
  • But I do think that we have to pursue an approach that allows them to back off without a tremendous loss of face, because they will not accept anything else, and we have to stay clear of apology.

make (or pull) a face (or faces)

Produce a facial expression that shows dislike or some other negative emotion, or that is intended to be amusing: Anna pulled a funny face at the girl
More example sentences
  • She paused, pulling a face in dislike of its plainness.
  • It's pure clownery, making faces and funny sounds in the hope that somebody will laugh.
  • So the next time you see me grimacing and tying to make faces: actually I'm not.

off one's face

informal Very drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs: I had a great time going out clubbing and getting off my face
More example sentences
  • But the promotion and celebration of a drugs culture, which they started, has been catastrophic - along with the idea that being off your face on drugs is equivalent to a state of grace.
  • You want to get off your face on jungle drugs and see visions.
  • I'd lose time too if I spent half my existence off my face while the taxi driver takes the scenic route home.

on the face of it

Without knowing all of the relevant facts; apparently: on the face of it, these improvements look to be insignificant
More example sentences
  • I have had a look at that, and I think the reason is apparent on the face of it.
  • That, on the face of it, was a decision on the facts and on the background evidence before the adjudicator.
  • However, on the face of it, I thought probation might be appropriate.
ostensibly, to the casual eye, at face value, to all appearances, from appearances, to go/judge by appearances, to all intents and purposes, at first glance, on the surface, superficially;
apparently, seemingly, evidently, outwardly, it seems (that), it would seem (that), it appears (that), it would appear (that), as far as one knows, as far as one can see/tell, by all accounts, so it seems;
so the story goes, so I'm told, so it appears/seems, so it would appear/seem;
allegedly, supposedly, reputedly

put a brave (or bold) face on something

Act as if something unpleasant is not as bad as it really is: he was putting a brave face on it but she knew he was shattered
More example sentences
  • He is staying very positive but is hugely disappointed and is putting a brave face on it.
  • Mrs Driffill was putting a brave face on it yesterday as her daughter, son-in-law and neighbours flocked to help her mop up the water and thick mud.
  • Mrs Rollinson's 61-year-old son, Keith, said: ‘She's trying to put a brave face on it and we're doing what we can to improve security, but she's just wondering when it will happen again.’
front, show, display, act, appearance, false front, facade, exterior, guise, mask, masquerade, pretence, charade, pose, illusion, smokescreen, veneer, camouflage

put one's face on

informal Apply make-up to one’s face: Paula spent two minutes putting on her face first thing
More example sentences
  • It wasn't so much a conspiracy, as a rebellion against artifice, against middle age, against the idea that you could not leave the house ‘without putting your face on’.
  • Plus, Mom was blasting music in the next room while she was putting her face on.

save face

Avoid humiliation: allowing the guerrillas to save face and disarm
More example sentences
  • That way, it would save face for me and avoid any further conflicts with Tinka and Victor.
  • The Foyle Assembly member said: ‘If this is about saving face, then people will be sceptical.’
  • As is typical with these sorts of arrangements, it only takes one slip to start an avalanche, coincidence always plays into the hands of the betrayed, and the most important thing above all is saving face.

save someone's face

Enable someone to avoid humiliation: he might be pretending to help her to save his face in front of Katarina
More example sentences
  • Or you could just withdraw all the actions, but though it'll save your face from the drip-drip of bad publicity, it'll still make you look like a bunch of bungle-bounces.
  • And under no circumstances will you ask her to wrap her own presents the night before Christmas in order to save your face in front of her parents.
  • She said Parnell went through with the wedding: ‘To save my face and stop me looking like a complete idiot.’

set one's face against

Resist with determination: he had set his face against the idea
More example sentences
  • In view of the recent highlighting of farm income difficulties, there no longer could be any justification for either the Minister for Agriculture or other parties to set their face against change, he said.
  • I read that Seend have set their face against traffic calming, removed road markings and seen traffic speeds drop by 5mph.
  • We set our face against any kind of empire building and this has helped generate trust.

throw something back in someone's face

Reject something in a brusque or ungracious manner: she’d given him her trust and he’d thrown it back in her face
More example sentences
  • And like with all bullies, I also think the best way to treat such behaviour is to throw it back in their face - so it would be right to wear the incident like a badge of honour.
  • I was extending an olive branch and all you can do is throw it back in my face.
  • When he gave them 300 roubles, the soldiers threw the notes back in his face and said: ‘You have dollars and only want to give us roubles.’

to one's face

Openly in one’s presence: if you’ve got something to say to me, say it to my face
More example sentences
  • Why can't I be brave enough to ask you to your face?
  • Is it just me or does Gordon Campbell remind you of a person, most of you know one, who will say something to your face and laugh about you or tell stories about you behind your back?
  • You don't often get rude things said to your face, but you get people writing letters, often anonymously, attacking your wish to be treated as fully human.

Phrasal verbs

face off

chiefly North American Take up an attitude of confrontation, especially at the start of a fight or game: close to a million soldiers face off in the desert
More example sentences
  • Ellis now found himself at Tiger Stadium for the All-Star Game, facing off against Blue in an historic matchup of minority pitchers.
  • The two teams will face off in a second game on Saturday at 2 p.m.
  • Divided into two teams of four, they face off in a game of paintball warfare in the woods.


Middle English: from Old French, based on Latin facies 'form, appearance, face'.

  • The word face, from Latin facies ‘form, appearance, face’, is used in many expressions. To fly in the face of, meaning ‘to do the opposite of’, is recorded from the 16th century. It is taken literally from the notion of a dog attacking someone by springing directly at them. To lose face, meaning to be humiliated, is a direct translation of a Chinese phrase. The 16th-century dramatist Christopher Marlowe coined the phrase the face that launched a thousand ships to describe the great beauty of Helen, whose abduction by Paris caused the Trojan War. Facet (early 17th century) is literally a ‘little face’ from French facette.

Words that rhyme with face

abase, ace, apace, backspace, base, bass, brace, case, chase, dace, efface, embrace, encase, enchase, enlace, grace, interlace, interspace, in-your-face, lace, mace, misplace, outface, outpace, pace, place, plaice, race, space, Thrace, trace, upper case

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: face

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.