Definition of mask in US English:



  • 1A covering for all or part of the face, worn as a disguise, or to amuse or terrify other people.

    • ‘Even the tots wore their costumes and enjoyed the fun, peering through their grotesque masks, and frightening their elders.’
    • ‘It gave me a start, but I soon noticed that it was a very ornate mask.’
    • ‘Rumor also has it that he was smiling wildly underneath his catcher's mask.’
    • ‘This one night, my rat head mask shifted and I couldn't see anything, so I just ran onstage and tried to do the part.’
    • ‘It promises to be a wacky race featuring disguises and masks and neo-virginal veils of innocence.’
    • ‘Two other men, both wearing masks, then jumped in.’
    • ‘But I agree no matter how much it stinks, I'll be there for the opening matinee geeked out wearing a trench coat with cowprint mask.’
    • ‘The device beeped twice as the display lit up, revealing the face of a young woman in a domino mask.’
    • ‘Wearing a white, knitted mask, he moved with an impish, cartoonlike quality.’
    • ‘Every sort of mask was laid out, kings, princesses, cows, snakes, skeletons, cats and even a lovely ballerina.’
    • ‘The masks and disguises donned by nearly every character in the play create a dizzying parody of both the theatre itself and society.’
    • ‘To frighten his enemies, he began to wear a fearsome mask when he went into battle.’
    • ‘In the middle of this smoky, beery evening, a tall, lanky figure walks onstage wearing a grotesque hare-lipped mask.’
    • ‘Even bandanas, which could be used as masks, are discouraged.’
    • ‘The expensive, bought costumes and masks are very often inappropriate and can genuinely frighten smaller children, she adds.’
    • ‘This crest mask represents a woman and is worn with a white mesh suit, which extends over the head of the masquerader.’
    • ‘She opened her dresser drawer and pulled out a black and silver mask.’
    • ‘If you see anybody wearing any kind of mask or disguise this Halloween, call the Police on them as soon as possible.’
    • ‘Men wearing masks dance among them in an attempt to frighten the child, who has to walk clockwise through this scene of carnage.’
    • ‘He left just 25 tiny flakes of skin on a woman's stocking which he wore as a mask then discarded in a stolen getaway car.’
    • ‘I reached over and yanked the man's mask off of his head, then stood back and regarded his face with curiosity.’
    • ‘A strange sackcloth mask with two slit-like eyeholes is pulled over his head.’
    • ‘The colourful use of masks, live music and puppets, both large and small, are used to illustrate this fun, clever and moving story.’
    • ‘As the interior dome light went on, Ford caught a glimpse of a white ceramic mask on the disembarking passenger.’
    • ‘I opened the box, and showed him the black fuzzy wrist and ankle cuffs with matching black fuzzy eye-covering mask.’
    • ‘Soon, the assassin reveals herself as female wearing a black leather mask as she runs out carrying the gun that she used.’
    • ‘Here the players designed and constructed their own masks.’
    • ‘The trademark seems to be a big fawn dog with a black facial mask.’
    • ‘She recognised it the moment she saw it - her white porcelain mask for the Moonlight Festival.’
    • ‘He gave a soft chuckle and his light eyes made his silver mask less frightening.’
    • ‘She flipped down the veil on her mask, looking fretfully at the figure ahead of her.’
    • ‘The only way to differentiate between them was their domino masks.’
    • ‘She topped her satiny black boudoir gown of her design with a magnificent feathery headdress and mask.’
    • ‘On her face is a domino mask decorated to look like a bird's face and beak.’
    • ‘Some put on frightening masks, some had their faces tattooed with scary figures while a few had horns growing out of their heads.’
    • ‘Closer to me were two children, also wearing masks.’
    • ‘Disguising myself with this mask would be the key to winning Leah back!’
    • ‘Guests were asked to come along in fancy dress or carry an eye mask.’
    • ‘He pulls off his coat and mask, revealing the usual flapped-open pants, and smiles broadly.’
    • ‘Here is a bus full of them wearing identical masks; this same mask shows up often, but I have no idea what it depicts.’
    disguise, veil, false face, domino, stocking mask, fancy dress
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  • 2A covering made of fiber or gauze and fitting over the nose and mouth to protect against dust or air pollutants, or made of sterile gauze and worn to prevent infection of the wearer or (in surgery) of the patient.

    • ‘The surgical mask serves to collect bacteria from the nasopharyngeal airway of the wearer.’
    • ‘Patients should wear a mask during transport from the ward to the surgical suite, if possible.’
    • ‘When health workers come into contact with suspected cases they and the patients will wear surgical masks.’
    • ‘Whether a surgical mask or something even more sophisticated could protect you is unclear.’
    • ‘Unless a mask is worn, blood or other secretions from the patient can enter the surgeon's mouth, maximising the chances of infection.’
    • ‘If any visitor or family member has an illness, either the patient or the ill person should wear a mask.’
    • ‘Sometimes patients complain it is hard to breath with the white masks.’
    • ‘Staff members caring for the patient and those cleaning the room must wear fit-tested masks.’
    • ‘As he was an habitual wearer of a dust mask, it is far from clear to me why this adjustment was made.’
    • ‘Precautions for droplet infection should be instituted, including the wearing of masks and rigorous disinfection and hygiene procedures.’
    • ‘The gauze mask helped protect her burned face until she could receive treatment in hospital.’
    • ‘She pulled her hair into a medical hat and applied a mask on her nose and mouth.’
    • ‘Then, if a patient is asked to wear a mask while the physician rules out an infection of concern, it will not be a new concept to the patient.’
    • ‘Wear a protective mask, covering nose and mouth, to decrease the percentage of polluted air breathed.’
    • ‘An example of this occurred when a company was asked to compare the resistance of several surgical masks to blood penetration.’
    • ‘His mission accomplished, he covered his mouth and nose with a mask and entered the room.’
    • ‘Throughout lower Manhattan, rescue workers and police officers wore surgical masks to protect them from the dust.’
    • ‘Worn correctly, the mask should cover the nose with the metal band contouring to the bridge of the nose.’
    • ‘Perhaps surgical masks also should be standard wear for patients.’
    • ‘You should wear eye goggles, a mask over your nose and mouth, and rubber or latex gloves.’
    matte, photomask, shadow mask, masking, masking tape
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    1. 2.1 A protective covering fitting over the whole face, worn in fencing, ice hockey, and other sports.
      • ‘Edwards appeared at the podium wearing his number 59 Chargers jersey and a football mask.’
      • ‘There may even be hostility between the goalies that even their masks can't hide.’
      • ‘The catcher throws his mask off and he's not sure where the ball is.’
      • ‘The fencing mask gives a good level of visibility, can be removed quickly if grappling happens.’
      • ‘Last of all, she put on the fencing mask, through which she could see Victoria, but her face wouldn't get hit.’
      • ‘Only recently were the protective outfits and masks adopted by fencers.’
      • ‘She was in a fencing outfit, so they couldn't see her face, because of the fencing mask.’
      • ‘Players sport masks that discourage even traces of light from influencing them.’
      • ‘The Ukranian marksman seems reluctant to play with a protective mask, and will in all probability miss out to be replaced again by Jon Dahl Tomasson.’
      • ‘The umpire took his mask off and gave me a look, knowing that it was a purpose pitch.’
      • ‘The French fencing master La Boessiere invented the fencing mask, allowing a much safer bout.’
      • ‘But he also noted that catchers didn't always wear masks, and neither did hockey goaltenders.’
      • ‘Giants catcher Hank Gowdy, however, stumbled over his mask and dropped the ball.’
      • ‘There are no problems with his level of fitness but this is a facial injury and the mask might speed up his return.’
      • ‘He once stepped onto the ice for practice, wearing nothing but a mask and his skates.’
      face mask, protective mask, gas mask, oxygen mask, fencing mask, iron mask, ski mask, dust mask
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    2. 2.2 A respirator used to filter inhaled air or to supply gas for inhalation.
      • ‘A plastic mask covered her mouth and nose, feeding oxygen to her in her oblivion.’
      • ‘When you need to use a dust mask or respirator, be sure to use the right one for the job.’
      • ‘Other treatments that work for some people are breathing oxygen through a mask or using a numbing medicine in the nose.’
      • ‘Always wear a dust mask or respirator when using a sander to prevent inhalation of sawdust.’
      • ‘Or you might try a nebulized form of the anesthetic lidocaine, which you inhale through a mask as a fine mist.’
      • ‘He activates a control on his belt and activates his mask's infrared filter.’
      • ‘If the child has cyanosis, they may need to receive extra oxygen through a mask.’
      • ‘High risk of exposure to an unknown or known agent may necessitate that an N95 respirator mask be used.’
      • ‘For this treatment, a patient will wear a mask over their nose during sleep that blows air into their throat at a pressure level that is right for them.’
      • ‘An ambulance crew or doctor arriving at the scene will give oxygen through a mask or nose tubes to increase the amount reaching the heart.’
      • ‘The flow rate of fixed concentration masks should be adjusted for patients with high peak inspiratory flows.’
      • ‘The oxygen is breathed in through tubes that you put in your nose or through a mask that goes over your mouth and nose.’
      • ‘Jemma said she wanted to be injected, but on the morning of her operation this proved difficult and she had to inhale anaesthetic via a mask.’
      • ‘When Rees was giving birth, she was close to blacking out from pain and turned to reach for the mask supplying a painkilling gas.’
      • ‘For this treatment, you will wear a mask over your nose during sleep that blows air into your throat at a pressure level that is right for you.’
      • ‘The device works by converting medication into a mist and delivering it through a mask that you wear over your nose and mouth.’
      • ‘He had grown used to it, at least when he had his mask and filters that allowed him to breathe.’
      • ‘After surgery oxygen-enriched air can be provided via a mask.’
      • ‘A mask connected to a small air supply had been strapped harshly over her face.’
      • ‘The fan is powered and configured with the exterior of the filter body to aid in drawing air through the filter media of the mask.’
  • 3A cosmetic preparation spread over the face and left for some time to cleanse and improve the skin.

    • ‘This is a natural soft face masque containing an extract of brewers' yeast which is applied to the whole face.’
    • ‘This is the best face masque I have ever used.’
    • ‘A chocolate face masque made with organic cocoa is simply amazing for your skin.’
    • ‘I was ready to put my peeling face masque on. It smells like cucumber (funnily enough!) and is really sticky.’
    • ‘The Super food Antioxidant Masque is a super-antioxidant face masque that combines two super foods – Blueberries and Pomegranate – and has been developed to help minimise the negative effects of sun damaged skin.’
  • 4A likeness of a person's face in clay or wax, especially one made by taking a mold from the face.

    • ‘Dotted around the pitch-black stage, they appear to be sculpted masks on to which moving faces are projected.’
    • ‘They have already moulded masks and now want to paint them all.’
    • ‘There are also some representations of fish and human masks.’
    • ‘The last three chapters are divided according to animal figures, human forms, and masks.’
    • ‘There are several different versions of Napoleon's death mask in circulation - after his death many people, including hero-worshippers, wanted to own a copy.’
    • ‘Ghanaians do not make or use masks, but there are some funerary effigies in clay.’
    • ‘The thing about the mask that looks odd to me is that the sculpted eyes look a bit too far apart, giving him a vaguely alien appearance.’
    1. 4.1 A person's face regarded as having set into a particular expression.
      ‘his face was a mask of rage’
      • ‘The old woman pulled her face into a mask of almost no expression at all.’
      • ‘The mask of anger is easier to show than the mask of hurt.’
      • ‘Cathy's face screws up into a mask of rage, and Emily gasps beneath her white-knuckled grip.’
      • ‘His face wore a strange expression, a mask of anger and determination.’
      • ‘If at any time he is stuck between a crowd of the opposite gender, he will give himself a mask of blank expression.’
      • ‘It wasn't the cold expression he was always showing in front of her but the mask of true and authentic fury.’
      • ‘Ash's face finally went from a mask to a pained expression.’
      • ‘No more will I worry or hide behind the mask of anger or neutral emotions.’
      • ‘The man named Sephiroth faltered, watching her walk away, and his mask of rage fell into confusion.’
      • ‘Slight anger crossed his face before he hid it under a mask of amusement.’
      • ‘Tom sighed slightly, his expression in its cold mask, not showing the annoyance he felt.’
      • ‘She looked slightly aghast at his words, but any real emotion she hid behind a mask of silent fury.’
      • ‘It may have been hidden under a mask of fear but it was there.’
      • ‘Her beautiful face was twisted into a mask of rage and she was continually shouting obscenities at us in that terrible voice.’
      • ‘Her eyes were glowing white and her face was a hideous mask of rage.’
    2. 4.2 A hollow model of a human head worn by ancient Greek and Roman actors.
      • ‘The use of masks in Greek theatre was normal, reducing audience confusion when an actor played several roles.’
      • ‘On the shield is the Bath Gorgon, a Medusa mask perhaps representing a water god.’
      • ‘In fact, on occasion her face looks like a mask out of some classical Greek tragedy - Wilde would probably have approved.’
      • ‘Wax masks were worn by Roman actors in funeral processions and were kept in a special shrine in Roman houses.’
    3. 4.3 The face or head of an animal, especially of a fox, as a hunting trophy.
      • ‘A friend has left me a fox mask with an inscription to say that it was caught by the Hunt in 1936.’
    4. 4.4archaic A masked person.
  • 5A manner or expression that hides one's true character or feelings; a pretense.

    ‘she let her mask of moderate respectability slip’
    • ‘Personal conflict chipped away at the mask that hid her true persona from the world.’
    • ‘By now, she knew she could no longer hide from her true feelings, donning a mask of self-denial.’
    • ‘Hidden beneath the mask of apathy, there is an unsuspected energy and a great human, moral and spiritual charge.’
    • ‘Being smartly dressed not only allows a man to be elegant and appear important but it also gives him a mask to hide behind and perform in.’
    • ‘The best analogy I can think of is that I was looking for a mask to conceal my true feelings.’
    • ‘He is certainly composed but beneath the mask of elegant good manners the man is a bundle of nerves.’
    • ‘It helped me to escape my feelings, it was my mask, I could hide behind it.’
    • ‘Try as we might to pretend otherwise, the mask of polite discourse had been shattered.’
    • ‘At least the womenfolk didn't hide their feelings behind masks of stone.’
    • ‘To me they were I realise now a mask to hide behind.’
    • ‘Many of the characters within the play hide behind a mask of falseness.’
    • ‘This is no time for wearing the shallow mask of manners.’
    • ‘The carefree, friendly man returned, but I knew it was a mask to hide the turmoil.’
    • ‘Of course, everyone wearing masks that hid their true intentions didn't help much.’
    • ‘He manages to portray the sensitive man under the sadistic mask by tonal inflections and body language, admirably.’
    • ‘But the offer is vetoed by Finn, who alone sees the ugly fascist behind The Man's smooth mask of respectability.’
    • ‘Through this show I am hoping that people will realise that it is okay to be who we are, we don't have to wear masks and pretend to be people that we are not.’
    • ‘I'm not going to stand behind the social mask and pretend that everything is OK when it's not.’
    • ‘He was used to Kenny's mood swings and this enabled him to hide behind a mask of tranquillity.’
    • ‘We all wear masks in real life, when dealing with others, and the internet provides us with a more effective one, as we project a chosen image through our computer.’
    • ‘When we don the mask of sanity and hide our true feelings from each other, we also avoid having to face up to our moral complicity in the bombings.’
    • ‘The problem with him is he is a liberal who has put on the mask of moderation.’
    • ‘But behind all the masks, even camouflaged, he cannot hide from the truth.’
    • ‘Only at home did he remove the mask of the iron autocrat and become a warm personality.’
    pretence, semblance, veil, screen, front, false front, facade, veneer, blind, false colours, disguise, guise, concealment, cover, cover-up, cloak, camouflage
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  • 6Photography
    A piece of something, such as a card, used to cover a part of an image that is not required when exposing a print.

    • ‘If a diffused edge is preferred on the image, the mask can be placed on top of the glass rather than under it.’
    • ‘The images are quite large (600x400 pixels), but when you load the masks, they conform to the size of your photo.’
    • ‘The Unsharp Mask is an old photography trick that has become available to ‘the common man’ through the introduction of digital editing tools.’
    • ‘You may notice that the entire image has the unsharp mask applied to it beforehand.’
    • ‘In this tutorial we will be focusing on how we can create a photo mask from a new document.’
  • 7Electronics
    A patterned metal film used in the manufacture of microcircuits to allow selective modification of the underlying material.

    • ‘The cells are doped with N type dopants by using the photo-resist regions as masks.’
    • ‘The first barrier layer is selectively removed using an etch that is selective to the hard mask layer.’
    • ‘Typical masks are made of metal patterns deposited on glass and have no internal plumbing.’
  • 8Entomology
    The enlarged lower lip of a dragonfly larva, which can be extended to seize prey.

    • ‘The larvae of the emperor dragonfly are themselves voracious predators, armed with fearsome mouthparts known as a 'mask'.’
    • ‘The moment that the larva approaches near enough to its prey, the innocent looking mask is unfolded and darted out, and the unsuspecting aquatic insect or small fish is seized by the teeth at the extremity and drawn back into its mouth.’
    • ‘When a prey is in sight, the mask is thrust forward and the prey instantly impaled on the hooks, then drawn back to the mouth and eaten.’
    • ‘Dragonfly larvae possess a highly specialized mouthpart, known as the labial mask, which can be extended rapidly to grab prey such as small animals.’
    • ‘It's very dramatic as the dragonfly larva has an extraordinary labial mask mounted underneath its face - like a gigantically extended lower lip with claws on the end which come whizzing out and grab the bloodworm.’


[with object]
  • 1Cover (the face) with a mask.

    • ‘Their faces were masked by the thick helmets that enveloped their heads.’
    • ‘Black feathers sprout from her head and, like the bird, she is masked with bits of torn fabric bound around her eyes.’
    • ‘The rider's features couldn't be seen because of the large cloak masking its face.’
    • ‘He had a piece of dark material masking his face and was wearing a black, cotton casual jacket.’
    • ‘After it was settled, the fighters at the shrine removed the bandanas that had masked their faces and slipped away into the city's maze of alleyways.’
    • ‘His face was masked by a grey scarf and dark woollen hat and he was wearing dark trousers, a dark knee-length coat and black trainers with white stripes.’
    • ‘On the video, the unknown man's face is masked with a scarf and sunglasses.’
    • ‘In some of the raids the man masked his face with dark sunglasses, a baseball cap, a hood and a newspaper.’
    • ‘In the very front of the gym, a man in a black cloak stood at a podium, the hook masking his face.’
    • ‘Witnesses described seeing the prisoners handed to US agents whose faces were masked by hoods.’
    • ‘The young Spellweaver could barely make out his face, which was masked by a full visor.’
    • ‘The cape was masking her face and hair colour and the horse was trotting along the street with little pace.’
    • ‘He opened his eyes for he wished to see his face but his face too was masked like the other men but he knew this man wasn't his enemy.’
    • ‘For example, masking a patient who is morbidly obese is difficult because of the need for high pressure to overcome the weight of the chest and abdomen when the patient is supine.’
    • ‘A few masked homogeneous faces around her made it clear that it was no dream.’
    hide, conceal, disguise, cover up, obscure, screen, cloak, camouflage, veil, mantle, blanket, enshroud
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  • 2Conceal (something) from view.

    ‘the poplars masked a factory’
    • ‘On their own, trellises are also a great way of softening an area or masking a drab concrete wall.’
    • ‘She masked herself from view as she went through a hallway and entered a large bright room.’
    • ‘And now… the shiny wooden floor, smart servery and coloured drapes masking the old roof lights all make for an attractive, modern appearance.’
    • ‘The double doors were missing, a fine veil of rainwater masking the entryway.’
    • ‘This one was brick and stone laid with crawling ivy masking most of the surface area.’
    • ‘As she draws close to the Sun she disappears from view in her helical setting, circling the Earth invisibly masked by the Sun's light.’
    • ‘Trees masking cameras will be pruned to improve the view and community groups such as Homewatch will be developed.’
    • ‘Other than those tiny stands, the area in front of him was masked by a thick darkness.’
    • ‘They could not see the anger etched on the man's face due to the shadows masking him.’
    • ‘The mast rose up behind it, pointing to the sun above and masked only by dense shoals of damselfish, a fantastic sight.’
    • ‘They began their ascent again as he stepped back and let the shadows mask him.’
    • ‘Your GP can prescribe camouflage creams to mask disfigurement of the skin.’
    • ‘He could hardly hear the sound of her footsteps, and somehow, she masked her prints in the grass.’
    • ‘The bright blue of the river masked the pollution and it sparkled in the sunlight.’
    • ‘She opened her eyes to see a man's tall, slender frame filling the door, masked by shadows.’
    • ‘His muscular frame, although masked by his black nightshirt, was still clearly visible.’
    • ‘It's the kind of ground that can remain soft even in winter, when early snows mask a far-from-frozen running surface.’
    • ‘Depending on design, they can mask undesirable sights or highlight attractive views.’
    • ‘The cellar door had masked what was an underground subway of some sort.’
    • ‘Special camouflage makeup can mask most bruising that still remains.’
    hide, conceal, disguise, cover up, obscure, screen, cloak, camouflage, veil, mantle, blanket, enshroud
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    1. 2.1 Disguise or hide (a sensation or quality)
      ‘brandy did not completely mask the bitter taste’
      • ‘Complex in flavours and well balanced in terms of sweet and savoury as well as texture, the food never masks an ingredient.’
      • ‘White noise was also presented over whole-ear headphones to mask completely any sounds made by the tactile stimuli.’
      • ‘Generally, the gut-rotting base wine should have been poured away long ago, and the spice is used to mask revolting flavours and aromas.’
      • ‘She stood in full public view on the pavement and sprayed herself from top to bottom with the fake scent, masking one unpleasant smell with another, then shuffled off in the general direction of the tube station.’
      • ‘Cooks have been wielding spices for centuries, from preserving foods with them to masking smells and flavors in meats that were less than fresh.’
      • ‘Powdered GHB is colorless and odorless but has a salty taste that is often masked by mixing it in fruit punches.’
      • ‘Instead, the smells of produce and horses were prevalent, masking every other odor, pleasant or not.’
      • ‘The unpleasant salty or soapy taste may be masked in flavored or alcoholic beverages.’
      • ‘The garlic wasn't strong enough to mask a slightly fishy flavour, but that didn't detract.’
      • ‘Adding water from home to the water at the show grounds may mask the smell and taste of the local water and make it more palatable to your horse.’
      • ‘The gustatory faults of a low-quality wine can be masked by serving it very cool.’
      • ‘With the alcohol flavor masking taste, there were no discernible differences between the study medication and placebo.’
      • ‘It was made from crushed herbs, wild flowers and leaves, again hiding them from view, but also masking their scent.’
      • ‘Fat and oil sticks to and coats the tongue, enhancing perceptions of smoothness, but also masking and altering taste perceptions.’
      • ‘She sprayed herself with the deodorant in one of the shelves, and smiled, knowing the smell of sweat was at least masked by vanilla now.’
      • ‘The coffee in the kiosk there is always way too hot, a tactic often used to mask the flavour of cheap, nasty coffee.’
      • ‘Some people object to its bitter taste, even masked with fruit flavoring.’
      • ‘As soon as he opened the arena door leading into the stable, nothing could mask that unmistakable smell.’
      • ‘With every dish, I strive to achieve a balance of flavours, enhancing the individual tastes and textures of ingredients without masking or overpowering any of them.’
      • ‘Venezia's version was overly sweet and lemony, masking the rich flavour of mascarpone.’
      hide, conceal, disguise, cover up, obscure, screen, cloak, camouflage, veil, mantle, blanket, enshroud
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  • 3Cover (an object or surface) so as to protect it from a process, especially painting.

    ‘mask off doors and cupboards with sheets of plastic’
    • ‘The first step was to mask off an area around the metal cut-out, making sure that the spacing was even all the way around.’
    • ‘I cleaned all the parts completely and prepared for masking.’
    • ‘Masking tape takes ages to apply, it never comes off cleanly and it doesn't even mask off wet paint effectively.’
    • ‘The next morning we masked off the baseboards, doors, and windows with plastic and proceeded with staining.’
    • ‘Mask off the stencil with masking tape or more paper so that everywhere that you don't want pigment to pass through is masked off.’
    matte, photomask, shadow mask, masking, masking tape
    View synonyms


Mid 16th century: from French masque, from Italian maschera, mascara, probably from medieval Latin masca ‘witch, specter’, but influenced by Arabic masḵara ‘buffoon’.