ef·​fron·​tery i-ˈfrən-tə-rē How to pronounce effrontery (audio)
plural effronteries
: shameless boldness : insolence

Did you know?

To the Romans, the shameless were "without forehead," at least figuratively. Effrontery derives from Latin effrons, a word that combines the prefix ex- (meaning "out" or "without") and frons (meaning "forehead" or "brow"). The Romans never used effrons literally to mean "without forehead," and theorists aren't in full agreement about the connection between the modern meaning of effrontery and the literal senses of its roots. Some explain that frons can also refer to the capacity for blushing, so a person without frons would be "unblushing" or "shameless." Others theorize that since the Romans believed that the brow was the seat of a person's modesty, being without a brow meant being "immodest" or, again, "shameless."

Choose the Right Synonym for effrontery

temerity, audacity, hardihood, effrontery, nerve, cheek, gall, chutzpah mean conspicuous or flagrant boldness.

temerity suggests boldness arising from rashness and contempt of danger.

had the temerity to refuse

audacity implies a disregard of restraints commonly imposed by convention or prudence.

an entrepreneur with audacity and vision

hardihood suggests firmness in daring and defiance.

admired for her hardihood

effrontery implies shameless, insolent disregard of propriety or courtesy.

outraged at his effrontery

nerve, cheek, gall, and chutzpah are informal equivalents for effrontery.

the nerve of that guy
has the cheek to call herself a singer
had the gall to demand proof
the chutzpah needed for a career in show business

Example Sentences

the little squirt had the effrontery to deny eating any cookies, even with the crumbs still on his lips
Recent Examples on the Web Gary’s run-in with Lucille Ball; his TV-interview effrontery with Art Linkletter; Alana’s encounter with William Holden (Sean Penn), Sam Peckinpah (Tom Waits) figures; her defiant trick on Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper) and brief venture into political work (Benny Safdie as a local pol). Armond White, National Review, 14 Jan. 2022 With United out of the Champions League this season, Veronique no doubt wanted extra financial compensation for the effrontery of her client not playing top-level European football (even if Juve barely get past the group stage in the competition these days). Emmet Gates, Forbes, 18 Aug. 2022 About the Soviet of Deputies’ effrontery. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, National Review, 13 Oct. 2021 But this guy, who has the effrontery to be angry now? Haben Kelati, Washington Post, 1 Feb. 2023 In Lewis’s account, drawn from the writings of a Resistance veteran named Gilbert Renault (nom de guerre: Colonel Rémy), her sheer effrontery assuaged suspicion. Lauren Michele Jackson, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2022 In an act of intellectual effrontery that recalls Karl Marx, Wengrow and Graeber use this insight to overthrow all existing dogma about humankind—to reimagine, in short, everything. Virginia Heffernan, Wired, 11 July 2022 Thompson, skilled at both effrontery and anxiety, mines that tension brilliantly. Justin Changfilm Critic, Los Angeles Times, 16 June 2022 What Negro actor at this stage in the world’s history could dare bring to the role the effrontery Olivier does? Armond White, National Review, 20 Oct. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'effrontery.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French effronterie, ultimately from Medieval Latin effront-, effrons shameless, from Latin ex- + front-, frons forehead

First Known Use

1697, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of effrontery was in 1697


Dictionary Entries Near effrontery

Cite this Entry

“Effrontery.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effrontery. Accessed 3 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


ef·​fron·​tery i-ˈfrənt-ə-rē How to pronounce effrontery (audio)
plural effronteries
: shameless display of boldness : nerve sense 3c
had the effrontery to deny any guilt

More from Merriam-Webster on effrontery

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