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[fiz-ee-og-nuh-mee, -on-uh-mee] /ˌfɪz iˈɒg nə mi, -ˈɒn ə mi/
noun, plural physiognomies.
the face or countenance, especially when considered as an index to the character:
a fierce physiognomy.
Also called anthroposcopy. the art of determining character or personal characteristics from the form or features of the body, especially of the face.
the outward appearance of anything, taken as offering some insight into its character:
the physiognomy of a nation.
Origin of physiognomy
late Middle English
1350-1400; earlier phisognomie, phisiognomie, late Middle English phisonomie < Medieval Latin physionomia, physonomia < Late Greek physiognōmía, syncopated variant of Greek physiognōmonía art of judging a person by his features (see physio-, gnomon, -y3); replacing Middle English fisenamie, fisnamie, fisnomie < Middle French fisonomie < Medieval Latin, as above; cf. phiz
Related forms
[fiz-ee-og-nom-ik, ‐ee-uh-nom‐] /ˌfɪz i ɒgˈnɒm ɪk, ‐i əˈnɒm‐/ (Show IPA),
physiognomical, physiognomonic
[fiz-ee-og-nuh-mon-ik, ‐on-uh‐] /ˌfɪz iˌɒg nəˈmɒn ɪk, ‐ˌɒn ə‐/ (Show IPA),
physiognomonical, adjective
physiognomically, physiognomonically, adverb
physiognomist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for physiognomy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Even Winston Aylett's physiognomy was more human and less statuesque, as he patted her head, and bade her be composed.

    At Last Marion Harland
  • For there was that in his air and physiognomy, which proclaimed him no common man.

    The Free Lances Mayne Reid
  • He was struck with his physiognomy, which expressed at this moment a manly yet sorrowful pride.

    Samuel Brohl & Company Victor Cherbuliez
  • It had a physiognomy and character of its own—this fantastic foreigner!

    Night and Morning, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • The physiognomy has usurped the place of the physique, the gesture of the form, the pose of the substance.

    French Art W. C. Brownell
  • But nothing lasts in this world, at least without changing its physiognomy.

    Victory Joseph Conrad
  • There was only one; an old man with a genuine French physiognomy, rings in his ears and on his fingers.

  • He fell to examining his physiognomy in it with silent absorption.

    Victory Joseph Conrad
  • The thick upper lip is never absent from the older descriptions of the physiognomy of the strumous.

British Dictionary definitions for physiognomy


a person's features or characteristic expression considered as an indication of personality
the art or practice of judging character from facial features
the outward appearance of something, esp the physical characteristics of a geographical region
Derived Forms
physiognomic (ˌfɪzɪəˈnɒmɪk), physiognomical, adjective
physiognomically, adverb
physiognomist, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French phisonomie, via Medieval Latin, from Late Greek phusiognōmia, erroneous for Greek phusiognōmonia, from phusis nature + gnōmōn judge
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 physiognomy

late 14c., "art of judging characters from facial features," from Old French phizonomie and directly from Late Latin physiognomia, from Greek physiognomia "the judging of a person's nature by his features," from physio- (see physio-) + gnomon (genitive gnomonos) "judge, indicator" (see gnomon). Meaning "face, countenance, features" is from c.1400. Related: Physiognomical.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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physiognomy in Medicine

physiognomy phys·i·og·no·my (fĭz'ē-ŏg'nə-mē, -ŏn'ə-mē)

  1. Facial features, especially when considered as an indicator of character or as a factor in diagnosis.

  2. Estimation of one's character and mental qualities by a study of the face and general bodily carriage.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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