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

  • n. The expanse of an open mouth, a bird's beak, or similar structure.
  • n. A gaping grimace: "his mouth gaping in a kind of rictus of startled alarm” ( Richard Adams).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A bird's gaping mouth
  • n. Any open-mouthed expression

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The gape of the mouth, as of birds; -- often resricted to the corners of the mouth.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In ornithology, the gape of the bill; the cleft between the upper and the lower mandible when the mouth is open.
  • n. In botany, the throat, as of a calyx, corolla, etc.; the opening between the lips of a ringent or personate flower.

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

  • n. a gaping grimace


Latin, from past participle of ringī, to gape.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin rictus, participle of ringor ("open the mouth wide") (Wiktionary)


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  • "A rictus of cruel malignity lit up greyly their old bony faces."
    - James Joyce, 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'.

    August 26, 2009

  • (n): the gape of the mouth, as of birds; often specifically the corners of the mouth.

    January 1, 2009

  • *I said smile, not horrible rictus!*
    from the Questionable Content

    September 13, 2008