phys·​i·​og·​no·​my | \ ˌfi-zē-ˈä(g)-nə-mē How to pronounce physiognomy (audio) \
plural physiognomies

Definition of physiognomy

1 : the art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance
2 : the facial features held to show qualities of mind or character by their configuration or expression
3 : external aspect also : inner character or quality revealed outwardly

Examples of physiognomy in a Sentence

He and his son have the same distinctive physiognomy.
Recent Examples on the Web Her images are a critique of pseudo-scientific studies in 19th- and early 20th-centuries that categorized racial groups according to their physiognomy as a way to assert the superiority of whites. Steven Litt,, "Transformer Station’s “I Sing the Body’’ surveys photographic interpretation of the human form," 14 July 2019 Some plastic surgeons have been educating themselves in physiognomy to advise their clients. The Economist, "Prophets and profitsIn South Korea fortune-telling will soon be a $3.7bn business," 24 Feb. 2018 But as the distortions start to affect the relations between the characters and their own physiognomy, things grow increasingly unreal. George Pendle, Esquire, "Alex Garland Mutated Annihilation Into a Psychedelic Sci-Fi Horror," 21 Feb. 2018 Hence the 19th century was the golden age of a pseudoscience known as physiognomy. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "Why our brains lead us astray when we take things at face value," 13 Aug. 2017 And each is distinct from the others in everything: physiognomy, hairstyle, clothes, even the lines in the palms of their hands. Klara Glowczewska, Town & Country, "Why Now Is the Time to Visit China," 14 July 2017 Noah's daughters-in-law, unnamed in the Bible, are each assigned a different race to explain the varying physiognomy of the world's inhabitants. The Washington Post,, "Creationists build $120 million Noah-sized ark, complete with dinosaurs," 24 May 2017 Bush now commands a style, generic but efficient, of thick, summary brushwork that aims to capture expression as well as physiognomy. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "George W. Bush’s Painted Atonements," 3 Mar. 2017 The notebook contains thoughts on perspective that Da Vinci jotted down next to architectural studies and caricatures for physiognomy studies. Nicole Martinelli, WIRED, "The Real Da Vinci Code," 3 Apr. 2006

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'physiognomy.' 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 physiognomy

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for physiognomy

Middle English phisonomie, from Anglo-French phisenomie, from Late Latin physiognomonia, physiognomia, from Greek physiognōmonia, from physiognōmōn judging character by the features, from physis nature, physique, appearance + gnōmōn interpreter — more at gnomon

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The first known use of physiognomy was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Physiognomy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for physiognomy


How to pronounce physiognomy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of physiognomy

formal : the appearance of a person's face : a person's facial features


phys·​i·​og·​no·​my | \ ˌfiz-ē-ˈä(g)-nə-mē How to pronounce physiognomy (audio) \
plural physiognomies

Medical Definition of physiognomy

1 : the art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance
2 : the facial features held to show qualities of mind or character by their configuration or expression

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