Definition of rictus in English:



  • A fixed grimace or grin.

    ‘Ned's smile had become a rictus of repulsion’
    • ‘One young acolyte has such a rictus from grinning at his master's jokes that it looks like a physical affliction.’
    • ‘Having achieved the single most sinister moment on television this year, Gordon bares his teeth, flares his nostrils and pulls his face back into a rictus of a smile.’
    • ‘I felt my lips tighten in a rictus that was closer to a grimace than a smile.’
    • ‘These girls were laughing around me and I was laughing too but it was a rictus smile.’
    • ‘But once you've got the joke, it becomes repetitive and, despite the presence of seemingly every comic actor from Leslie Phillips to Mackenzie Crook, laughter is replaced by a rictus grin.’
    • ‘Enrique's face is twisted into a rictus grin, and he lets out the unmistakable chortle of sheer psychotic derangement.’
    • ‘There is a moment during a honeymoon visit to Kinsey's dreadful parents when the young professor is laughing with his wife about his father's idiocies, and suddenly Neeson turns his laugh into a rictus of pain.’
    • ‘At home his face is an opaque, expressionless void; at work his mouth is frozen into a terrible, ingratiating rictus of a smile.’
    • ‘David Whitton apparently had to massage Jack's face afterwards to help him get rid of the rictus smile he'd been wearing all morning.’
    • ‘Ramirez smiled then, a terrible rictus with more than a hint of malice.’
    • ‘Jack used to stand there in agony, a rictus grin on his face, doing his level best to disappear up his own dinner jacket.’
    • ‘I watched the head waiter stand over the only other inhabited table for 20 minutes, explaining some arcane byway of his art with an expansive warmth, while the couple stared up at him with rictus grins and hollow, screaming eyes.’
    • ‘He wiped the spittle away, his lips twisted in a rictus halfway between a snarl and a smile.’
    • ‘From the fearful rictus his mouth forms, I know I've spoken the nameless question he has dreaded.’
    • ‘Watching Mima's personality collapse is heart-rending and compelling: she gets to a point where she doesn't know where she ends and the construct - the rictus smile, the perkiness - begins.’
    • ‘The scenes that are presumably supposed to depict camaraderie are hilariously forced; three sets of perfectly capped teeth clenched into rictus grins of barely suppressed hatred.’
    • ‘But the smile of the suicide bomber has as much to do with the source of true humour and laughter as the enforced rictus that accompanies the ritual incantation of ‘Have a nice day’ in the supermarket checkout.’
    • ‘The format is familiar to students of programmes that are so bad they are almost good: his and hers presenters, faces set in a perpetual rictus of forced bonhomie, marooned on a couch in trash-television hell.’
    • ‘Despite himself, Padlin looked at the corpse's mouth, his gaze fastening for an unpleasant instant on the rictus leer stretching the dead lips.’
    • ‘Behind the rictus grin, Winkelman must be terrified.’


Early 19th century: from Latin, literally open mouth from rict- gaped from the verb ringi.