ric·​tus | \ ˈrik-təs How to pronounce rictus (audio) \

Definition of rictus

1a : the opening or gape (see gape entry 2 sense 2a) of a mouth especially : the gape of a bird's mouth
b : the edge or margin of the upper or lower mandible of an animal (such as a bird or snake) also : the point or angle where the upper and lower mandible of an animal meet
2 : a rigid grin or grimace usually with the mouth open or lips parted At the beach bar of a St Lucia hotel, Doc pulls his face into a welcoming rictus and steels himself for the Happy Hour invasion.— Rhoda Koenig There, on the monitors in freeze frame, is Jack Nicholson, a hideous rictus carved onto his leering countenance.— Bill Zehme sometimes used before another noun … Billie Shepherd tried to spice up the ice with a girl-powered routine but was so nervous, her face was frozen in a rictus grin.— Michael Hogan

Examples of rictus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Prince’s expression — a rictus of embarrassment, confusion and guilt — belongs in a gallery. A.o. Scott & Wesley Morris, New York Times, 7 Dec. 2017 And there, standing at the bench, his face contorted in a rictus of hateful intensity, was Mike Krzyzewski. Will Blythe, Esquire, 1 Apr. 2010 Watching the way photography froze many of their faces into a rictus of rage was chilling. Wesley Morris, New York Times, 23 Aug. 2017

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

1685, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for rictus

New Latin, from Latin, open mouth, from ringi to open the mouth; akin to Old Church Slavonic rǫgŭ mockery

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Last Updated

4 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rictus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rictus. Accessed 23 Oct. 2021.

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