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
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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Collins is a lanky 46-year-old Coloradan, an Ichabod Crane look-alike, irrepressibly rosy-humored but with the maniacal countenance of Dennis Hopper. John Phillips, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1995 Land Rover Defender 90 Goes Nowhere, Man," 24 Mar. 2020 On the last day of the Grand Prix, with his job on the line, his odds looked as grim as his countenance. Ben Dooley, New York Times, "Crazy Mascots Flooded Japan. Can This Grouchy Boar Survive?," 16 Feb. 2020 But the countenance of McKeller, who was African-American, is everywhere in Boston, in the work of one of the most prominent painters of the Gilded Age, John Singer Sargent. Alina Tugend, New York Times, "John Singer Sargent’s Secret Muse," 9 Mar. 2020 Speaker Nancy Pelosi compulsively worked her teeth with lips and tongue, her fidgeting countenance alive with fury. Lance Morrow, WSJ, "The State of Our Union Is . . . Entertaining," 5 Feb. 2020 The call was answered by The Six, a half dozen men who thought themselves able, and suitable, and so exceptional the truth would shine from their countenance like Excalibur in the sunlight on the morning of battle. John Archibald |, al, "The Legend of Six White Men of a Certain Age," 12 Feb. 2020 That is what the public sees — Easy Eli, with a gee-whiz countenance. John Branch, New York Times, "Eli Manning: Championship Quarterback, Hall of Fame Prankster," 27 Dec. 2019 Wentz, the band's onstage spokesman and primary lyricist, generally adopted a too-cool-for-this-corporate-gig countenance — but award him points for a comedic jab at Elon Musk's latest all-electric vehicle. David Lindquist, Indianapolis Star, "Fall Out Boy fires up Ohio State, Wisconsin fans before Big Ten championship game," 7 Dec. 2019 Cutts is slight with long blonde hair, a soft Glaswegian accent and an eager countenance. Sam Rigby, Quartz, "The Scottish city trying to make urban living less miserable," 2 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The best solution may be the one most remain unwilling to countenance: online jury trials. The Economist, "Rough justice How to get jury trials back on track," 11 June 2020 With a crisis upon them, the last thing Xi Jinping and his advisers in Beijing seem likely to countenance dismantling is a pillar of their economic model. Shawn Donnan,, "U.S. and U.K. Hopes for Trade Dimmed by China Virus," 1 Feb. 2020 Elisabeth’s letters to her daughter, Immo, who was living in Holland, show how someone who undoubtedly saw herself as a nice, law-abiding middle-class woman could countenance the Nazi regime. Jennifer Szalai, New York Times, "A Sobering Look at How Quickly Hitler Transformed Germany," 17 Mar. 2020 The government’s willingness to countenance tough measures against those opposing its citizenship legislation, but not against the communal violence in Delhi, has earned Modi and the BJP allegations of complicity. Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic, "India Failed Delhi," 2 Mar. 2020 Courts and lawmakers resisted, arguing the Constitution never countenanced such actions by a governor. Allie Morris, Dallas News, "Greg Abbott confronts coronavirus as stronger governor than Texas had 50 years ago," 22 Mar. 2020 Who else would have agreed to countenance Trump’s preposterous defense—that his real concern was corruption inside Ukraine? John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "John Bolton’s Book Is Making Fools of Trump’s Republican Enablers," 29 Jan. 2020 Though Xi may be straining under internal pressures, few analysts believe Beijing will countenance a full capitulation from Lam’s government. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Hong Kong’s stunning vote deepens China’s conundrum," 26 Nov. 2019 The Singaporean leader doesn’t think Xi or his allies would countenance a repeat of 1989 with a military intervention into Hong Kong. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "China’s 70th anniversary party can’t hide a sense of unease," 1 Oct. 2019

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.

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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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for countenance

Cite this Entry

“Countenance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for countenance


How to pronounce countenance (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of countenance

 (Entry 1 of 2)

formal + literary : the appearance of a person's face : a person's expression



English Language Learners Definition of countenance (Entry 2 of 2)

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


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.

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