ˌvȯlt-ˈfäs How to pronounce volte-face (audio)
: a reversal in policy : about-face

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Volte-face came to English by way of French from Italian voltafaccia, a combination of voltare, meaning "to turn," and faccia, "face." It has existed as an English noun since at least 1819. The corresponding English phrase "about face" saw use in a number of forms in the decades before that, including military commands such as "right about face" (that is, to turn 180 degrees to the right so as to face in the opposite direction); nevertheless, the standalone noun about-face (as in "After declining, he did an abrupt about-face and accepted the offer") is about as old as volte-face. Although foot soldiers have been stepping smartly to the command "About face! Forward march!" for centuries, about-face didn't appear in print as a figurative noun meaning "a reversal of attitude, behavior, or point of view" until the mid-1800s.

Examples of volte-face in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The Brits demanded a volte-face, thought her European stylist Tati Cotliar, fashion director of riotous cool-girl mag Buffalo Zine. Alice Newbold, Vogue, 2 Mar. 2024 But some are less positive about the apparent volte-face. WIRED, 6 Sep. 2023 By interring the theory, Chief Justice Roberts executed a transparent volte-face. Simon Lazarus, The New Republic, 16 Aug. 2023 Companies that are used to trying to appeal to the widest possible consumer base now apparently face a lose-lose situation: continue to pursue LGBTQ consumers and face backlash from bigots, or submit to those complaints and face backlash for the volte-face. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 1 June 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'volte-face.' 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, from Italian voltafaccia, from voltare to turn + faccia face, from Vulgar Latin *facia — more at volt, face

First Known Use

1819, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of volte-face was in 1819


Dictionary Entries Near volte-face

Cite this Entry

“Volte-face.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/volte-face. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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