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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Michael, a still-religious interior decorator with a fragile countenance, proves a helpful, intelligent collaborator on the men’s visual schemes. Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2021 His broad smile falls away, replaced with a grave countenance. Alex Bhattacharji, WSJ, 28 Oct. 2021 Like Libra, Aquarius has a tendency to intellectualise, and like Libra, Aquarius can give off a cool countenance. Gala Mukomolova,, 16 Oct. 2021 The son of an immigrant junk dealer, Mr. Asner had a fireplug build, jowly countenance and workingman’s semblance that are not traditionally considered the raw materials of stardom. Washington Post, 29 Aug. 2021 From Sarah Bernhardt to Brigitte Bardot to Léa Seydoux, French actresses have long found that a certain continental countenance can pave the way to a formidable career on American stages and screens. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, 27 Aug. 2021 Their facial expression and overall countenance was my cue to engage in light hallway banter. Wunmi Bakare, Essence, 19 June 2021 Implicit in the dour countenance on the right about an economy-shrinking death of birth is that human capacity for production is static. John Tamny, Forbes, 16 May 2021 Though Duncan played the game with the expressionless countenance of a Sphinx, inside beat the heart of a cold-blooded, competitive killer. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, 14 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Creamer even appears on one video to countenance plans to coordinate anti-Trump protests with Clinton’s campaign. Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 16 Nov. 2021 This column will not countenance such outrageous smears upon the media industry, many of whose members have made herculean efforts to promote the Biden scarcity agenda. James Freeman, WSJ, 20 Oct. 2021 In that case, the former will likely countenance any plan to attack the latter without considering the possibility that they also might be harmed. Daniel J. Pilla, National Review, 29 Sep. 2021 To make matters worse, the right-wing judiciary has shown itself to be more than willing to countenance these power grabs. Emma Roller, The New Republic, 16 Aug. 2021 The future of the Afghan people was painful to consider, and the notion of a US relationship with the Taliban was hard to countenance. Frida Ghitis, CNN, 26 Aug. 2021 The response that Damon/Baker gives refuses to countenance an alternative to Hollywood liberalism, and yet Baker incriminates himself, literally. Armond White, National Review, 28 July 2021 Despite the daca reference, the movie is far too invested in harmony, melodic and civic, and in the crotchety refrains of everyday life, to countenance bad blood; why bother to fight, when there’s a blackout looming and a fridge on the fritz? Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 11 June 2021 That may require a breaking of the status quo that neither Israel nor Abbas seems willing to countenance. Washington Post, 7 July 2021

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.

See More

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

Learn More About countenance

Time Traveler for countenance

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near countenance




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for countenance

Last Updated

24 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Countenance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for countenance



English Language Learners Definition of countenance

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



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

: 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on countenance

Nglish: Translation of countenance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of countenance for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!