[koun-tn-uh ns]
  1. appearance, especially the look or expression of the face: a sad countenance.
  2. the face; visage.
  3. calm facial expression; composure.
  4. approval or favor; encouragement; moral support.
  5. Obsolete. bearing; behavior.
verb (used with object), coun·te·nanced, coun·te·nanc·ing.
  1. to permit or tolerate: You should not have countenanced his rudeness.
  2. to approve, support, or encourage.
  1. 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 formscoun·te·nanc·er, nounun·coun·te·nanced, adjectiveun·der·coun·te·nance, noun

Synonyms for countenance

2. See face. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for countenancing

Historical Examples of countenancing

  • What kind of a man would be countenancing a letter like that?

    Still Jim

    Honor Willsie Morrow

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

    Jennie Gerhardt

    Theodore Dreiser

  • This is the church, and her members are the men, whom you are countenancing amongst you.

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


    Thomas Hobbes

  • Mr. Gillman we believe to be too upright a man for countenancing any untruth.

British Dictionary definitions for countenancing


  1. the face, esp when considered as expressing a person's character or mooda pleasant countenance
  2. support or encouragement; sanction
  3. composure; self-control (esp in the phrases keep or lose one's countenance; out of countenance)
verb (tr)
  1. to support or encourage; sanction
  2. to tolerate; endure
Derived Formscountenancer, noun

Word Origin for countenance

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

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