Definition of countenance in English:


Line breaks: coun¦ten|ance
Pronunciation: /ˈkaʊnt(ə)nəns
, -tɪn-/


  • 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
    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] Back to top  


keep one's countenance

Maintain one’s composure, especially by refraining from laughter.
More 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'.

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