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noun coun·te·nance \ˈkau̇n-tən-ən(t)s, ˈkau̇nt-nən(t)s\

Simple Definition of countenance

  • : the appearance of a person's face : a person's expression

Full Definition of countenance

  1. 1 obsolete :  bearing, demeanor

  2. 2 a :  calm expression b :  mental composure c :  look, expression

  3. 3 archaic a :  aspect, semblance b :  pretense

  4. 4 :  face, visage; especially :  the face as an indication of mood, emotion, or character

  5. 5 :  bearing or expression that offers approval or sanction :  moral support

Examples of countenance

  1. … his white countenance was rendered eerie by the redness of the sagging lids below his eyes … —John Updike, The Afterlife, 1994

  2. You could see it in his frame and deportment … a beaming countenance, expansive salutations, a warm handshake … —Simon Schama, Granta, Autumn 1990

  3. All, all are kind to me but their tones fall strangely on my ear & their countenances meet mine not like home faces … —Emily Dickinson, 17 Feb. 1848, in Selected Letters, (1914) 1986

  4. Before receiving him, Henry had so possessed himself that no one could guess from his countenance with what sentiments he remembered the young king. —Amy Kelly, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, 1950

  5. The photograph showed his somber countenance.

  6. <a pleasant countenance that puts visitors at ease>

Origin of countenance

Middle English contenance, from Anglo-French cuntenance, contenance, from Medieval Latin continentia, from Latin, restraint, from continent-, continens, present participle of continēre to hold together — more at contain

First Known Use: 13th century



verb coun·te·nance \ˈkau̇n-tən-ən(t)s, ˈkau̇nt-nən(t)s\

Simple Definition of countenance

  • : to accept, support, or approve of (something)

Full Definition of countenance


  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to extend approval or toleration to :  sanction <refused to countenance any changes in the policy>

coun·te·nanc·er noun

Examples of countenance

  1. But there are only two logical choices … . If you can't countenance the first, you have to accept the second. —Anna Quindlen, Newsweek, 6 Aug. 2007

  2. … the constellation of family emotions—love, obedience, rivalry, repression—can turn a family into a moral system of its own in which even the greatest horrors can be countenanced in the name of loyalty and love … —Scott Turow, Times Literary Supplement, 15 Mar. 1991

  3. They disapproved of the marriage, and could not be expected to countenance it. —Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, 1891

  4. <I don't countenance such behavior in children of any age.>

  5. <countenanced the delays and inconveniences of traveling by air with good grace>

Origin of countenance

(see 1countenance)

First Known Use: 1568

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February 11, 2016

the holder of an office

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