The Meaning of Countenance: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of countenance? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word countenance, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What does the word countenance mean?

According to the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and Collins English Dictionary, the word countenance can be used as either a verb or a noun. As a noun, this word refers to someone’s appearance – specifically, their face. As a verb, the word countenance means  to give support to or approve of. The word countenance has three syllables – coun-te-nance, and the pronunciation of countenance is ˈkaʊntɪnəns. This word is mainly British and seems like a very formal way of referring to the human face in America. Opt for more informal terms for a person’s face depending on the setting.

According to Educalingo, Operation Countenance is a term that refers to the  1941 joint invasion of Iran by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. This is also called the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran by the UK. The term divine countenance refers to the face of God, in a literal or metaphorical sense. 

According to Word Sense, there are numerous other languages that contain words meaning countenance. You may notice that some of these translations of countenance look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are often formed when two words of different languages have the same root or language of origin. 

  •  Portuguese: aparência‎ (fem.), semblante‎ (masc.)
  •  Bulgarian: изражение на лицето‎
  •  Czech: výraz‎ (masc.)
  •  Dutch: gelaatsuitdrukking‎ , verschijning‎
  •  Icelandic: andlit‎ (neut.)
  •  Danish: ansigt‎ (neut.), mine‎ (common)
  •  Arabic: مَلَامِح‎ (masc. pl.)
  •  French: visage‎ (masc.)
  •  Scottish Gaelic: aogas‎ (masc.)
  •  Georgian: სახის გამომეტყველება‎
  •  Finnish: ilme‎, kasvonpiirteet‎
  •  Mandarin: 面容‎
  •  Polish: oblicze‎ (neut.), wyraz twarzy‎ (masc.), mina‎ (fem.)
  •  Spanish: apariencia‎ (fem.), semblante‎ (masc.), expresión‎ (fem.), rostro‎
  •  Greek: όψη‎ (fem.), μορφή‎ (fem.), παρουσιαστικό‎ (neut.), φυσιογνωμία‎ (fem.)
  •  German: Antlitz‎ (neut.)
  •  Italian: sembianza‎ (fem.), apparenza‎ (fem.), espressione‎ (fem.)
  •  Armenian: դեմք‎, դեմքի արտահայտություն‎
  •  Russian: выраже́ние лица‎ (neut.)

What are synonyms and antonyms of countenance?

There are many different words that have the same meaning as the word countenance. These are called synonyms. Learning synonyms for a word is a great way to avoid repeating yourself and expand your English language vocabulary. This list of synonyms of countenance is provided by Power Thesaurus. 

  •  bear
  •  abide
  •  permit
  •  support
  •  uphold
  •  stomach
  •  mug
  •  phiz
  •  favor
  •  consent to
  •  smiler
  •  physiognomy
  •  encourage
  •  visage
  •  hold with
  •  appearance
  •  stand
  •  face
  •  tolerate
  •  swallow
  •  features
  •  look
  •  accept
  •  puss
  •  back
  •  take
  •  aspect
  •  allow
  •  abet
  •  endorsement
  •  endure
  •  license
  •  approve of
  •  bearing
  •  endorse
  •  expression
  •  condone
  •  approve
  •  warrant
  •  let
  •  mien
  •  indorsement
  •  favour
  •  authorize
  •  suffer
  •  sanction
  •  kisser
  •  advocate
  •  put up with
  •  person’s character
  •  pretense
  •  complexion
  •  state of mind
  •  natural look
  •  mood
  •  brook
  •  imprimatur

There are also many different words with the opposite meaning as countenance. These opposite words are called antonyms. Learning antonyms for different words is another great way to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms of countenance is also from Power Thesaurus.

  •  disrecommend
  •  be against
  •  disfavour
  •  rule out
  •  hurt
  •  discipline
  •  penalize
  •  frown on
  •  deplore
  •  chastise
  •  disfavor
  •  express a poor opinion of
  •  reject
  •  hate
  •  find unacceptable
  •  dislike
  •  be hostile towards
  •  discourage
  •  oppose
  •  hinder
  •  censure
  •  be displeased with
  •  chastize
  •  debar
  •  impose sanctions
  •  deprecate
  •  despise
  •  interdict
  •  have a poor opinion of
  •  condemn
  •  bloodlust
  •  look askance at
  •  detest
  •  criticize
  •  be dissatisfied with
  •  disparage
  •  embargo
  •  dissuade
  •  ban
  •  deny
  •  disallow
  •  block
  •  blame
  •  forbid
  •  obstruct
  •  decry
  •  knock
  •  disapprove
  •  loathe
  •  angry about

What is the origin of the word countenance?

According to Etymonline, the word countenance has been used since the mid-13c Middle English contenaunce, meaning behavior or conduct. This word has been used since early c14 to refer to outward appearance or looks. This word comes from the  Old French contenance mien and Latin continentia restraint or abstemiousness, literally meaning the way one contains oneself. This comes from the Latin continentem, the present participle of continere/contenir, from the root com meaning with and tenere meaning to hold, from Proto-Indo-European roots. Countenance has been used as a verb since late 15c to mean to behave or act as if. It has been used to mean to patronize since the 1560s, and one can add the suffixes ed and ing to make the related words countenanced and countenancing.

How can the word countenance be used in a sentence?

The word countenance can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to add them to your vocabulary. You can also try making flashcards or quizzes to test your knowledge of their definitions. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are a few different examples of the word countenance to get your started.

She had a countenance of restraint and self-control when speaking to the police about the man who broke into her basement. She knew they would not take her seriously if she showed the passion and emotion she felt inside, but she had to play the system to avoid their shame. 

He put on a countenance of good will as his friend bragged about his exam grade. To his dismay, he had not done well, but still wanted to maintain a sense of virtue and piety. Their mutual friend’s stern visage gave away her thoughts immediately.

The union’s endorsement countenanced the democrat candidate, providing their explicit approval of the candidate.

Overall, the word countenance means either someone’s face or appearance, or the act of giving support to or approving of. This word can either be used as a noun or a verb and is of Old French, Latin, and Proto-Indo-European roots.


  1. countenance: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Countenance synonyms – 1 690 Words and Phrases for Countenance | Power Thesaurus 
  3. countenance | Origin and meaning of countenance | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  4. Countenance antonyms – 592 Opposites of Countenance | Power Thesaurus 
  5. Countenance definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary