Definitions

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

  • n. The art of judging human character from facial features.
  • n. Divination based on facial features.
  • n. Facial features, especially when regarded as revealing character.
  • n. Aspect and character of an inanimate or abstract entity: the physiognomy of New England.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The art or pseudoscience of deducing the predominant temper and other characteristic qualities of the mind from the outward appearance, especially from the features of the face.
  • n. The face or countenance, with respect to the temper of the mind; particular configuration, cast, or expression of countenance, as denoting character.
  • n. The art of telling fortunes by inspection of the features.
  • n. The general appearance or aspect of a thing, without reference to its scientific characteristics; as, the physiognomy of a plant, or of a meteor.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The art and science of discovering the predominant temper, and other characteristic qualities of the mind, by the outward appearance, especially by the features of the face.
  • n. The face or countenance, with respect to the temper of the mind; particular configuration, cast, or expression of countenance, as denoting character.
  • n. The art telling fortunes by inspection of the features.
  • n. The general appearance or aspect of a thing, without reference to its scientific characteristics.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The art of discovering the characteristic qualities of the mind or temper by observation of the form and movements of the face or body, or both. Also physiognomics.
  • n. The face or countenance considered as an index to the mind or disposition; particular configuration, cast, or expression of countenance.
  • n. The art of telling fortunes by inspection of the features.
  • n. The general appearance of anything, as the particular configuration of a landscape; the external aspect, without reference to other characteristics.

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

  • n. the human face (`kisser' and `smiler' and `mug' are informal terms for `face' and `phiz' is British)

Etymologies

Middle English phisonomie, from Old French phisionomie, from Late Latin physiognōmia, from Greek phusiognōmiā, variant of phusiognōmoniā : phusio-, physio- + gnōmōn, gnōmon-, interpreter; see gnō- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek φυσιογνωμονία ("the science or art of judging a man by his features"), from φύσις ("physique, appearance") + γνώμων ("one that knows or examines, an interpreter, discerner"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • But our physiognomy is only a part of the equation.

    Archive 2006-08-01

  • These Tartars do not differ much in physiognomy from the Chinese.

    The Golden Chersonese and the way thither

  • Remember that his very physiognomy is a cipher the key to which it behooves you to search for most diligently.

    The Promised Land

  • If he does not justify the hopes and expectations of the nation, physiognomy is of no value. —

    General M'Clellan

  • He was born under the Pyrenees; he was a Gascon of the Gascons, one of a people strongly distinguished by intellectual and moral character, by manners, by modes of speech, by accent, and by physiognomy from the French of the Seine and of the Loire; and he had many of the peculiarities of the race to which he belonged.

    Critical and Historical Essays, Volume III (of 3)

  • I would again borrow Ld Carysforts book, [4] & get a face of better physiognomy from the print there. the book does not want such aid — but it would be serving a young man of merit, who wants assistance.

    Letter 274

  • Yet for the sheer visual audacity and wit, the Echt Amerikan sense of the didactic effortlessly intermingled with pleasure (We’re gonna expose you to some highbrow music, sonny, but you’ll have fun anyway), and the move away from the heavy Germanic style of earlier features into a cleaner, more open sense of space and horizon and character (physiognomy is destiny, except when hippos dance!) it remains my favorite feature-length release.

    A Ceramic Fantasia : Scrubbles.net

  • The only thing which was clearly to be inferred from his attitude and his physiognomy was a strange indecision.

    Les Miserables

  • Certain police officers have a peculiar physiognomy, which is complicated with an air of baseness mingled with an air of authority.

    Les Miserables

  • Yet what struck me most about his physiognomy was a tuft, of queer red hairs which he had under his chin, as well as, still more, a strange habit of continually unbuttoning his waistcoat and scratching his chest under his shirt.

    Youth

Comments

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  • "My aged employer, with his physiognomy
    Shining from soap like a star in astronomy
    Said, "Mr. Cox, you'll oblige me and honour-me
    If you will take this as your holiday,
    If you will take this as your holiday!"

    --Cox and Box

    July 14, 2008

  • Interpretion or divination using a person's facial characteristics. Related to phrenology, which was popular in the 19th Century but later discredited.

    December 1, 2007