countenance

noun
coun·​te·​nance | \ˈkau̇n-tᵊn-ən(t)s, 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

a : aspect, semblance

b : pretense

5 obsolete : bearing, demeanor

countenance

verb
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

Verb

countenancer noun

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

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, www.cfpbmonitor.com, which has tracked the agency in detail since 2011 and now has a full-time lawyer-manager, Barbara Mishkin. Joseph N. Distefano, Philly.com, "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, latimes.com, "Swoops, shrieks and croons: Diamanda Galás transfixes at Palace Theatre," 27 Apr. 2018 Underwood Shares the First Full-Face Show While Rehearsing with Her Band Two days after sharing the first photo of half her face since her November accident, Underwood revealed the first photo of her entire countenance. Maria Pasquini, PEOPLE.com, "Everything We Know About Carrie Underwood's Accident, Recovery — and What's Next," 6 Apr. 2018 Carpenter can have a storm cloud darken his countenance seemingly without stirring a single facial muscle. Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle, "Actors keep mediocre ‘Heisenberg’ aloft at ACT," 22 Mar. 2018 Eva Tavares opened the local stop on the tour as a lovely Christine, both in voice and bright-eyed countenance. Theodore P. Mahne, NOLA.com, "'Phantom of the Opera' revisits Saenger with fresh new production that maintains the magic," 19 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 But even the less facially-objectionable ones are still, for the most part, elderly white men whose billions of dollars have rendered them incapable of countenancing any ideas that might affect their bottom line in the slightest. Jay Willis, GQ, "Why the NFL's New Anthem Policy Is Beyond Stupid, Explained," 24 May 2018 In the absence of many other moderating influences on Mr Trump—whose confidence in his ability to direct global affairs appears to be growing by the day—this suggests Mr Bolton could play a more positive role than his many critics have countenanced. The Economist, "John Bolton, the world’s hope," 31 May 2018 Using tolerance itself as a basis to countenance the spread of limitations on that tolerance amounts to a flawed equivalency in this case, a rhetorical snake choking on its tail. Rena Gross, Billboard, "'The Handmaid's Tale': Season 2, Episode 6 Recap - 12 Haunting Moments From 'First Blood'," 23 May 2018 Late in the play, Strand introduces a third character, Brad (Brett Mack), a neocon who mostly is there to try to destroy Cat in a way that her gentler boss would not countenance. Chris Jones, chicagotribune.com, "'The Originalist' at Court Theatre has a tricky job in portraying Antonin Scalia," 21 May 2018 In exchange, Kim promised to stop nuclear and missile testing for now and to countenance the joint military drills in South Korea next month. Susan Page, USA TODAY, "Analysis: With historic North Korea talks, both Trump and Kim get something they crave," 9 Mar. 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

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5

Verb

1568, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for countenance

Noun

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

Verb

see countenance entry 1

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Last Updated

12 Nov 2018

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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

countenance

noun

English Language Learners Definition of countenance

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

countenance

verb

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

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

countenance

noun
coun·​te·​nance | \ˈkau̇n-tᵊn-əns \

Kids Definition of countenance

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the human face or its expression a kind countenance

countenance

verb
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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