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

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Other Words from countenance


countenancer noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for countenance

Synonyms: Noun

cast, expression, face, look, visage

Synonyms: Verb

accept, approve (of), care (for), favor, OK (or okay), subscribe (to)

Antonyms: Verb

disapprove (of), discountenance, disfavor, frown (on or upon)

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Examples of countenance in a Sentence


… 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


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

Leicester Landon gives Don John a cool, conniving countenance., "Wittiness and romance make ‘Much Ado’ quite something at Tulane Shakespeare Fest," 19 June 2019 Eddie’s Cafe Helen and Min Hwang have been holding it down at Eddie’s Cafe for decades, seeing the color and countenance of the folks walking by their corner of Divisadero and Fulton change drastically over time. Soleil Ho,, "When being Asian American means bacon and eggs and hamburgers," 6 June 2019 Taft’s successor, Woodrow Wilson, would have slid beneath the waters—a saint of gothic countenance. Lance Morrow, WSJ, "Did Chivalry Go Down With the Titanic?," 14 Dec. 2018 Her stance may be modeled on 17th century paintings, but her countenance becomes that of a Greek bust. Gabriella Fuller, ELLE Decor, "Photographer Hendrik Kerstens Is a Modern Day Dutch Master," 16 Oct. 2018 His countenance is familiar to readers of his blog,, which has tracked the agency in detail since 2011 and now has a full-time lawyer-manager, Barbara Mishkin. Joseph N. Distefano,, "Ballard's Alan Kaplinsky: In 48 years of helping banks, Trump's the best," 21 June 2018 Weisswurst Pale and disturbing in countenance, these Bavarian veal-and-pork sausages are light and fragrant with lemon and onion, and are generally served steamed, alongside a pretzel. Sam Sifton, New York Times, "The Best Sausages of Summer, Ranked," 22 May 2018 The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you. Cnn Staff, CNN, "Full order of service for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle," 18 May 2018 After five minutes that felt like 10, Diamanda Galás finally approached the piano, her steps as measured as her alabaster countenance and the curtain of inky, bone-straight hair that hung well past her shoulders. James Reed,, "Swoops, shrieks and croons: Diamanda Galás transfixes at Palace Theatre," 27 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

There were, as well, the human costs that today’s Green New Dealers, to their credit, would not countenance. Kevin Baker, Harper's magazine, "Where Our New World Begins," 10 May 2019 After trying increasingly powerful medications, her typically straight-laced parents finally countenanced the idea of giving their child marijuana. Amber Senter, Marie Claire, "We Have to Acknowledge That CBD Use Is a Privilege," 11 Apr. 2019 Regulators living in the past would be unlikely to countenance a purchase of CBS, owner of one of the Big Four broadcast networks, by a fellow network owner such as Fox, Disney or Comcast . Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "CBS and the Function of Severance," 11 Sep. 2018 Is the Republican Party too far gone, too willing to countenance anti-democratic behavior, to be able to reform itself? Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "The Wisconsin power grab is part of a bigger Republican attack on democracy," 6 Dec. 2018 Finally, Third Point envisions a possible split between the grocery and snacks businesses, the merits of which are debatable, but which at least shows more willingness to countenance bold changes than Campbell has displayed so far. Aaron Back, WSJ, "What Campbell Can Learn from Third Point," 31 Oct. 2018 In particular Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, will not countenance any scheme that would oblige him to accept migrants. The Economist, "An emergency EU summit makes little progress on migration," 24 June 2018 Jesus’ refusal to countenance any kind of divorce in Mark’s Gospel is, to Ross, a foundational doctrine. Andrew Sullivan, Daily Intelligencer, "Pope Francis Isn’t Catholicism’s Trump," 20 Apr. 2018 But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), part of May’s parliamentary majority, will not countenance the creation of a border between Northern Ireland and the mainland. Peter Ford, The Christian Science Monitor, "As clock ticks down, Britain finally reveals its plan for Brexit. What now?," 11 July 2018

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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Statistics for countenance

Last Updated

25 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for countenance

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

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More Definitions for countenance



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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Comments on countenance

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food or victuals

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