coun·​te·​nance | \ ˈkau̇n-tᵊn-ən(t)s How to pronounce countenance (audio) , ˈkau̇nt-nən(t)s \

Definition of countenance

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : look, expression … a countenance which expressed both good humor and intelligence …— Sir Walter Scott
b : mental composure … startled, and also somewhat out of countenance.— Arnold Bennett
c : calm expression He managed to keep his countenance through the ordeal.
2 : face, visage especially : the face as an indication of mood, emotion, or character The photograph showed his somber countenance.
3 : bearing or expression that offers approval or sanction : moral support … her countenance of their unsafe amusements …— Jane Austen
4 archaic
b : pretense
5 obsolete : bearing, demeanor


countenanced; countenancing

Definition of countenance (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to extend approval or toleration to : sanction refused to countenance any changes in the policy

Other Words from countenance


countenancer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for countenance

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of countenance in a Sentence

Noun … his white countenance was rendered eerie by the redness of the sagging lids below his eyes … — John Updike, The Afterlife, 1994 You could see it in his frame and deportment … a beaming countenance, expansive salutations, a warm handshake … — Simon Schama, Granta, Autumn 1990 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 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 The photograph showed his somber countenance. a pleasant countenance that puts visitors at ease Verb 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 … 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 They disapproved of the marriage, and could not be expected to countenance it. — Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, 1891 I don't countenance such behavior in children of any age. countenanced the delays and inconveniences of traveling by air with good grace See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Kaluuya’s literal blackness, featured in a shaded, climactic close-up, is almost indiscernible even in IMAX, making his countenance inscrutable. Armond White, National Review, 22 July 2022 At sixty, Øino has a boyish mop and the mild countenance of a country parson. Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, 18 July 2022 Can an actor consciously use his countenance in a performance? David Marchese, New York Times, 10 June 2022 My paintbrush application of botulinum toxin and hyaluronic acid fillers can quickly rejuvenate the entire face and bring you back to a youthful relaxed and replenished countenance. April Long, Town & Country, 31 May 2022 Quixotic is a mild term for the compulsions that grip these people, and their adventures are more harrowing than anything Cervantes’s knight of the doleful countenance ever experienced. A. O. Scott, The Atlantic, 17 May 2022 The Burgman’s nose and tail, too, now blend their Burgmanesque countenance with full LED function to give a (slightly) festive appearance, and the dual headlights have integrated position lights. Josh Max, Forbes, 25 Mar. 2022 This wasn’t the first time Krouse’s countenance had elicited an immediate connection, a familiarity that led to a confession. Washington Post, 29 Mar. 2022 At the sight of her bright smile and studied countenance. Roy S. Johnson |, al, 26 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Meanwhile, Israel is unlikely to countenance any substantial delay in extracting gas from the Karish gas field due to Nasrallah's demands. Daniel Markind, Forbes, 19 July 2022 The play does not countenance for a moment the possibility of an honest mistake. Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune, 20 June 2022 The United States has refused to countenance removing these barriers for treatments, insisting that a waiver cover only vaccines. Muhammad Yunus, STAT, 29 May 2022 Down in the basement were others, most of them pensioners too poor or too old to countenance the idea of going anywhere. Nabih Bulosstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 21 Apr. 2022 But privately British officials say that for any attempt to take back areas such as Crimea, Ukraine and the West must be willing to countenance a much greater threat of the use of chemical or nuclear weapons. Vivian Salama, WSJ, 16 May 2022 Miss Manners cannot countenance condemning those who follow such explicit instructions. Washington Post, 30 Nov. 2021 Thus, the language in the opinion would seem to countenance a new OSHA vaccine-or-test-and-mask emergency rule targeted to particular workplace-specific risks. Simon Lazarus, The New Republic, 19 Jan. 2022 With reference to Teotihuacan, in the Valley of Mexico, Appiah suggests that few archaeologists would countenance the views of art historian Esther Pasztory about the city’s political structure. Kwame Anthony Appiah, The New York Review of Books, 16 Dec. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'countenance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of countenance


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5


1568, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for countenance

Noun and Verb

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

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Time Traveler for countenance

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The first known use of countenance was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

27 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Countenance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for countenance


coun·​te·​nance | \ ˈkau̇n-tᵊn-əns How to pronounce countenance (audio) \

Kids Definition of countenance

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the human face or its expression a kind countenance


countenanced; countenancing

Kids Definition of countenance (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give approval or tolerance to I will not countenance such rude behavior.

More from Merriam-Webster on countenance

Nglish: Translation of countenance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of countenance for Arabic Speakers


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