Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Appearance, especially the expression of the face: The question left him with a puzzled countenance.
  • n. The face or facial features.
  • n. A look or expression indicative of encouragement or of moral support.
  • n. Support or approval.
  • n. Obsolete Bearing; demeanor.
  • transitive v. To give sanction or support to; tolerate or approve: The college administration will not countenance cheating.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Appearance, especially the features and expression of the face.
  • v. To tolerate, support, sanction, patronise or approve of something.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Appearance or expression of the face; look; aspect; mien.
  • n. The face; the features.
  • n. Approving or encouraging aspect of face; hence, favor, good will, support; aid; encouragement.
  • n. Superficial appearance; show; pretense.
  • transitive v. To encourage; to favor; to approve; to aid; to abet.
  • transitive v. To make a show of; to pretend.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To appear friendly or favorable to; favor; encourage; aid; support; abet.
  • To make a show of; pretend.
  • To give effect to; act suitably to; be in keeping with.
  • n. The face; the whole form of the face; the features, considered as a whole; the visage.
  • n. The characteristic appearance or expression of the face; look; aspect; facial appearance.
  • n. Aspect or appearance conferred; seeming imparted to anything, as by words or conduct in regard to it: as. to put a good or a bad countenance upon anything.
  • n. Appearance of favor or good will; support afforded by friendly action; encouragement; patronage.
  • n. Assumed appearance; seeming; show; pretense.
  • n. In old law, credit or estimation by reason of one's estate, and with reference to his condition in life.
  • n. Hence Favor resulting from estimation or repute; trust; confidence.
  • n. Good appearance, presentableness.
  • n. In favor; in estimation.
  • n. Synonyms See face, n.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. formal and explicit approval
  • n. the appearance conveyed by a person's face
  • v. consent to, give permission
  • n. the human face (`kisser' and `smiler' and `mug' are informal terms for `face' and `phiz' is British)

Etymologies

Middle English contenaunce, from Old French, from contenir, to behave; see contain.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Anglo-Norman, from Latin contineō ("hold together"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Your countenance, Miss Lake -- you must pardon my frankness, it is my way -- _your countenance_ tells only too plainly that you now comprehend my allusion. '

    Wylder's Hand

  • Why is this that Baldêo should be always represented of this countenance and colour, and his brother Krishna, either white, or of an azure colour, and the _Caucasian countenance_? [

    Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official

  • 'I do not doubt it,' replied the other, your countenance is a letter of recommendation to every heart. '

    The Castle of Wolfenbach

  • Sometimes, not always, the countenance is the index of the mind.

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume VI (Acts to Revelation)

  • What he most certainly refuses to countenance is a way out of the genetic deadlock and instead he embraces the endless loop of historical repetition.

    Zola and Naturalism « Tales from the Reading Room

  • Members found this theatre many some-more engaging in countenance of feeling than progressing scenes.

    Archive 2009-11-01

  • Would McCain countenance the British PM meeting with Ahmadinejad, while excoriating Obama for having expressed a view that he would meet with someone like Ahmadinejad without preconditions??

    Blitzer: Awkward Iraq news for McCain campaign

  • He went out and returned, wan of face, changed in countenance and with his side-muscles a-quivering; so I asked him, ‘What aileth thee?’

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • When Moses says, "his countenance fell," (the word countenance is in Hebrew put in the plural number for the singular,) he means, that not only was he seized with a sudden vehement anger, but that, from a lingering sadness, he cherished a feeling so malignant that he was wasting with envy.

    Commentary on Genesis - Volume 1

  • Lord Raymond, at times the Bad Lord B. whose countenance is convulsed by a spasm of pain as he says, "Even the ghost of friendship has departed, and love" -- only to break off and curl his lip in disdain (p. 34).

    Paley, "Apocalypse Without Millennium"

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • I don't know much about physiognomy, but it appears not to be related, other than a generally similar meaning.

    May 17, 2009

  • Basically, this word refers to the expression on one's face. But it can also be used as a verb to mean "to allow, to accept" a certain behavior. In this meaning, it is often used in the negative: She could not countenance her husband's gambling. These two meanings are connected if you think that, when you accept something, you can look at it calmly, without getting upset.

    No, the word has nothing to do with counting.

    May 16, 2009

  • I thought this word had more to do with counting. i.e., the rhythm of one's speech, thoughts, etc., but I think I'm way off base.

    I don't feel satisfied with the definitions I'm finding that all have to do with someone's face.

    Is this related at all to physiognomy?

    May 16, 2009