from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Appearance, especially the expression of the face.
  • noun The face or facial features.
  • noun A look or expression indicative of encouragement or of moral support.
  • noun Support or approval.
  • noun Obsolete Bearing; demeanor.
  • transitive verb To give sanction or support to; tolerate or approve.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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.
  • noun The face; the whole form of the face; the features, considered as a whole; the visage.
  • noun The characteristic appearance or expression of the face; look; aspect; facial appearance.
  • noun 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.
  • noun Appearance of favor or good will; support afforded by friendly action; encouragement; patronage.
  • noun Assumed appearance; seeming; show; pretense.
  • noun In old law, credit or estimation by reason of one's estate, and with reference to his condition in life.
  • noun Hence Favor resulting from estimation or repute; trust; confidence.
  • noun Good appearance, presentableness.
  • noun In favor; in estimation.
  • noun Synonyms See face, n.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To encourage; to favor; to approve; to aid; to abet.
  • transitive verb obsolete To make a show of; to pretend.
  • noun Appearance or expression of the face; look; aspect; mien.
  • noun The face; the features.
  • noun Approving or encouraging aspect of face; hence, favor, good will, support; aid; encouragement.
  • noun obsolete Superficial appearance; show; pretense.
  • noun in an assured condition or aspect; free from shame or dismay.
  • noun not bold or assured; confounded; abashed.
  • noun to preserve a composed or natural look, undisturbed by passion or emotion.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Appearance, especially the features and expression of the face.
  • verb transitive To tolerate, support, sanction, patronise or approve of something.

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

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


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

[Middle English contenaunce, from Old French, from contenir, to behave; see contain.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Anglo-Norman, from Latin contineō ("hold together").


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  • 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 Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu 1843

  • 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 William Sleeman 1822

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

    The Castle of Wolfenbach Eliza 1793

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

    Commentary on the Whole Bible Volume VI (Acts to Revelation) 1721

  • 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 2010

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

    Philadelphia Reflections: Shakspere Society of Philadelphia admin 2009

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

    Archive 2009-11-01 admin 2009

  • 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 2008

  • 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 2006

  • 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 1509-1564 1996


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  • 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

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

    May 17, 2009