Definition of countenance in English:



  • 1A person's face or facial expression.

    ‘his impenetrable eyes and inscrutable countenance give little away’
    • ‘But, when you do notice the facial features, it is as though your pupils have adjusted to the darkness, and beautiful and strangely familiar countenances reveal themselves.’
    • ‘As for the Americans, theirs were grim countenances.’
    • ‘The Greenheads are humanoid - human like - but their countenances and outlines are conspicuously similar to the Grays, the archetypal aliens who appear in abduction stories in popular culture.’
    • ‘Her intense awareness of the camera's abilities is registered in every detail of her pictures, in the precision of their compositions, and in the countenances of her subjects.’
    • ‘Forced to smile under the sudden shift of attention to them, Althia placidly glided into the throne room on the arm of her sister, any evidence of their recent quarrel absent from their countenances.’
    • ‘Several portraits feature beautiful faces, some with deeply lined, wizened countenances.’
    • ‘The countenances range from human to somewhat animal-like to simply weird; most are done in a unique style, with sharply cut, striking features and exaggerated eyes.’
    • ‘Hard, fearful looks crowned their countenances as they gazed upon us.’
    • ‘He inwardly grinned along with Elizabeth, but both of them kept impassive countenances in front of their son.’
    • ‘A quick glance at some of the figures, ironically, and several of the figures seem to resemble one another, with their pointed headdresses and bug-eyed countenances.’
    • ‘‘I can't be the only person to see that,’ one of the women said, and the rest of the women shook their heads; once more, their wild hair flew about their surprised countenances.’
    • ‘Needless to say, I was completely confused, by the Shultz twins’ rapidly changed countenances and denial.’
    • ‘Jean just let a small smile escape her visage, and then turned her countenances back in to a frustrated manner.’
    • ‘The servant, as that was now what he all-too-obviously was, prayed no one would notice his slip of the tongue, but clearly they remained unanswered by the expressions on everyone's surprised and confused countenances.’
    • ‘Another British soldier stopped dead in his tracks and looked across the street at the four children, their smiles rapidly fading with guilty countenances replacing them.’
    • ‘A monk gazes upward through a dark chapel towards a shining stained-glass triptych; a nun gazes across a black expanse at a candle flame; wizened, benevolent countenances are upturned, and the light of faith shines down upon them.’
    • ‘Many faces appear and I try and commensurate local architecture with countenances.’
    • ‘The artist was taught to locate the animal traits beneath human countenances, creating a sketch that teetered on the cusp between Homo sapiens and the lower creatures: truer to life than the mundane appearance of the subject himself.’
    • ‘The image of the bronzed countenances of the Native man and woman will only become true fixtures of the Canadian consciousness when Aboriginal people themselves admit to the true nature of their pre-settlement lives.’
    • ‘It was the perfect damsel-in-distress expression, she'd seen executed on the countenances of several ladies.’
    • ‘Perhaps in reaction to the comments of their unseen interlocutors, their countenances are frozen in exasperation - one man leans forward, preparing to lunge in protest, while the other agitatedly wags his pencil.’
    face, features, physiognomy, profile
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  • 2[mass noun] Support or approval.

    ‘she was giving her specific countenance to the occasion’
    • ‘Moyes cannot help but countenance going the same way.’
    • ‘We all know the ABC would never give countenance to the perverted influence of base and vulgar advertising.’
    • ‘Is there any parent who would argue for, or countenance, the early evacuation of one sick child from an Intensive Care Unit bed in favour of their own child?’
    • ‘No judicial countenance can or ought to be given in matters of taxation to any system of extra-legal concessions.’
    • ‘The man, appropriately, shone his countenance approvingly upon her.’
    • ‘This was an insult he could no longer countenance, and so he had decided that all high-risk surgeries would be transferred to another hospital.’


  • Admit as acceptable or possible.

    ‘he was reluctant to countenance the use of force’
    • ‘Even the most hawkish leaders baulked at countenancing a right of pre-emptive action when the world's principal disputants both had nuclear missile submarines designed to evade a surprise attack.’
    • ‘Capital punishment has been outlawed most places, and even where it is allowed, brutality of that kind would not be countenanced.’
    • ‘My mother was responsible, solely because in deference to his manic passion for rock 'n' roll music my father wanted to call me Elvisa and had to be countenanced at all costs.’
    • ‘Engineering is countenanced only as a desperate last-ditch response to climatic catastrophe.’
    • ‘The Chairman said although it sounded funny, that sort of thing must not be countenanced, and the Surveyor was instructed to notify the police and take proceedings against any future offenders.’
    • ‘Defeat from Wales in London on Saturday cannot be countenanced by a nation who continually boast of their strength in depth and competition for places, but who suddenly look bereft in key areas.’
    • ‘They show contempt for their vows and pose a danger of showing more serious contempt for our children which should not be countenanced.’
    • ‘A refusal to co-operate would not be countenanced.’
    • ‘Not coincidentally, this came just as he was countenancing the possibility of employing his services elsewhere.’
    • ‘Racist behaviour is criminal, and cannot be countenanced.’
    • ‘Some friends say she is already countenancing life outside of Downing Street.’
    • ‘No such impropriety will be countenanced in Down District, however, with the sites open to Councillors being of a legal, technical and educational nature only.’
    • ‘Of course, it is understood the money must be used strictly for digging wells[… ] and no other use will be countenanced, that must be understood. […]’
    • ‘And to sever ‘human life’ from personhood is the slipperiest of slopes, and should not be countenanced by anyone who doesn't wish to risk ending up on the wrong side of the definition.’
    • ‘The man seems simply incapable of countenancing the notion that this nation can ever do wrong.’
    • ‘‘It is discriminatory and cannot be countenanced,’ she said.’
    • ‘We think countenancing any other position would totally undermine our members going about their duty and put them at phenomenal risk.’
    • ‘Defeat to ‘the town’ team would not have been countenanced in the past and this result will surely send shock waves across the Slieve Blooms.’
    • ‘But the arrogance that enables Cassell to be such a reliable shooter in the clutch prevents him from countenancing the fact that he's a defensive liability.’
    • ‘It is irresponsible and it should not be engaged in, and it should not be countenanced.’
    tolerate, permit, allow, admit of, agree to, consent to, give one's blessing to, take kindly to, be in favour of, favour, hold with, go along with, put up with, endure, brook, stomach, swallow, bear
    stand for, stick, hack, give the go ahead to, give the green light to, give the thumbs up to, give the okay to
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Middle English: from Old French contenance bearing, behaviour, from contenir (see contain). The early sense was ‘bearing, demeanour’, also ‘facial expression’, hence ‘the face’.