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[koun-tn-uh ns] /ˈkaʊn tn əns/
appearance, especially the look or expression of the face:
a sad countenance.
the face; visage.
calm facial expression; composure.
approval or favor; encouragement; moral support.
Obsolete. bearing; behavior.
verb (used with object), countenanced, countenancing.
to permit or tolerate:
You should not have countenanced his rudeness.
to approve, support, or encourage.
out of countenance, visibly disconcerted; abashed:
He was somewhat out of countenance at the prospect of an apology.
Origin of countenance
1250-1300; Middle English cuntenaunce behavior, bearing, self-control < Anglo-French cuntena(u)nce, Old French contenance < Latin continentia; see continence
Related forms
countenancer, noun
uncountenanced, adjective
undercountenance, noun
2. See face. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for countenancing
Historical Examples
  • But one of his daughters, as well as the "Laird," was implicated in countenancing the conspirators.

  • I can't go on countenancing this thing, and not be a party to it morally and every other way.

    Jennie Gerhardt Theodore Dreiser
  • What good do you suppose we do by countenancing performances like that?

    King John of Jingalo Laurence Housman
  • This is the church, and her members are the men, whom you are countenancing amongst you.

  • Let it be put forth in leading to abstain from countenancing an evil constitution, and to raise above the fear of consequences.

  • Is it because they tend to disorder in Government, as countenancing Rebellion, or Sedition?

    Leviathan Thomas Hobbes
  • He laughed at the idea of countenancing an engagement between a child like Marcella and an obscure country doctor.

  • You go on in and talk to Edward—he'll give you the best of reasons for our countenancing Mr. Baird.

    Nobody's Child Elizabeth Dejeans
  • What kind of a man would be countenancing a letter like that?

    Still Jim Honor Willsie Morrow
  • She proceeded to rebuke him severely for countenancing such a popish practice as the introduction of pictures in the churches.

    Queen Elizabeth Jacob Abbott
British Dictionary definitions for countenancing


the face, esp when considered as expressing a person's character or mood: a pleasant countenance
support or encouragement; sanction
composure; self-control (esp in the phrases keep or lose one's countenance; out of countenance)
verb (transitive)
to support or encourage; sanction
to tolerate; endure
Derived Forms
countenancer, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Old French contenance mien, behaviour, from Latin continentia restraint, control; see contain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for countenancing



mid-13c., from Old French contenance "demeanor, bearing, conduct," from Latin continentia "restraint, abstemiousness, moderation," literally "way one contains oneself," from continentem, present participle of continere (see contain). Meaning evolving Middle English from "appearance" to "facial expression betraying a state of mind," to "face" itself (late 14c.).


late 15c., "to behave or act," from countenance (n.). Sense of "to favor, patronize" is from 1560s, from notion of "to look upon with sanction or smiles." Related: Countenanced; countenancing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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