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

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 Still Watching, Big Man, and the Her Worth series employ collage to construct countenance as experimental situation. Matthew Carey Salyer, Forbes, "Lagos-Based Artist, Williams Chechet, Makes Nigeria Pop," 4 May 2021 What is revealed is the bottomless American capacity to countenance cruelty. Charles M. Blow New York Times, Star Tribune, "The state of the movement: Black Lives Matter," 8 Mar. 2021 The figure’s rough countenance, carved in cork and foam before being cast in bronze, evinces the effort of an artist sketching a figure, approximating a form with lines. Washington Post, "The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden’s two newest works stir up dark associations," 17 Nov. 2020 The horse-racing ministry of Hernandez can be measured in kind countenance and quiet footsteps. Bryce Miller Columnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Del Mar chaplain comforts, counsels amid uncertain days," 14 Nov. 2020 Bass-baritone David Govertsen brought aptly dark tonal shadings to Polyphemus' broodings, his menacing countenance made all the more sinister by Lindsey Lyddan’s shadowy lighting. Howard Reich,, "Review: Haymarket Opera launches 10th season on film with ‘Acis and Galatea’," 31 Oct. 2020 His other daughter, Rose, his son, Julian, and his wife, Sophia, all turned to stare at him and Una, their countenance and posture in a familiar anxious confusion. Jenny Mcphee, The New York Review of Books, "The Hawthornes Visit the Colosseum," 2 May 2020 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Give up, go cash, be grateful for the fig leaves available to those who — bless them all — can’t countenance asking for money. Washington Post, "Carolyn Hax: Bride’s parent thinks it isn’t appropriate to request cash wedding gifts," 6 Apr. 2021 Colleagues bristle at his authoritarian approach and his refusal to countenance differing opinions., "Can a computer generate a simulation of the brain?," 22 Apr. 2021 Chinese authorities don't generally countenance acts of civil disobedience. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "At Shanghai’s auto show, Tesla faces a woman’s viral protest—and Chinese rivals," 20 Apr. 2021 If bars are the natural habitat of drinkers, then basement rec rooms (or any domestic space casual enough to countenance spontaneous snoozing) belong to weed smokers. Judy Berman, Time, "3 New Stoner-Friendly TV Series to Watch on 4/20," 20 Apr. 2021 Major American sports leagues don’t countenance relegation, otherwise the Chicago Cubs would have disappeared from Major League Baseball somewhere between 1908 and 2016. Chris Jones,, "Column: British soccer fans going ballistic over the Super League rebels isn’t just about an attempt to upend tradition — it is about undermining culture at large," 20 Apr. 2021 Of course the major domestic leagues cannot countenance the idea of seeing their competitions diminished. New York Times, "Outrage About European Super League Is Muffled by Our Cheers," 18 Apr. 2021 But most restrictions have only tightened since, leaving Germany to countenance hitherto untried options like compulsory testing and curfews. The Economist, "Germany’s management of covid-19 is growing shakier," 31 Mar. 2021 But steadily her party has advanced farther than many French have been prepared to countenance, and Ms. Le Pen’s debut in the final round of France’s last presidential election in 2017 came as a shock to the system. New York Times, "Can France’s Far Right Rise to Power? One Mayor Shows How.," 13 Mar. 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.

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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

Last Updated

16 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Countenance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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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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