facepalm

or face palm or face-palm

[ feys-pahm ]
/ ˈfeɪsˌpɑm /
Slang.

noun

the gesture of placing the palm of one's hand across the face, as to express embarrassment, frustration, disbelief, etc. (often used as an interjection): She read the post and comments and did a facepalm. Okay, that was dumb—facepalm!

verb (used without object)

to use this gesture to express such emotions.

QUIZZES

DON’T VACILLATE! VANQUISH THIS WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ!

It’d be a real faux pas to miss this quiz on the words from August 3–9, 2020!
Question 1 of 7
What does “vacillate” mean?

Origin of facepalm

First recorded in 2000–05; face + palm1 (def. 1)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does facepalm mean?

Facepalm refers to the gesture of putting one’s hand up against the face, used mainly to express feelings of stupidity and frustration about oneself or others.

Where does facepalm come from?

While the gesture is much older, the term facepalm is recorded as early as 1996. In 2001, a forum user notably posted “<facepalm>doh!<facepalm>” in mock internet markup language.

Urban Dictionary entered facepalm in 2004, indicating the slang’s spread, but the term really took off in 2008 when it was incorporated into a meme based on an image still of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) facepalming in the 1990s Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Know Your Meme / Star Trek

The meme, and many others like it, were used online in response to content people found unbelievably idiotic or ignorant.

Unicode 9.0 approved the person facepalming emoji, 🤦, in 2016 with subsequent skin-tone and gender modifications, letting us express our disappointment with the mere touch of a button.

How is facepalm used in real life?

Facepalming, as a gesture, term, and emoji, is used for the many situations in life—directed at ourselves or others—that make us want to hide our heads in our hands rather than face the world at that moment.

It variously conveys embarrassment, frustration, stupidity, or exasperation, often with an undertone of “I can’t believe I’m so stupid!” or a kind of sighing resignation and disbelief.

Facepalm can be a noun, modifier, or verb.

 

 

Online, people use the hashtag #facepalm to comment on something ridiculous or stylize it *facepalm* to dramatize someone doing a facepalm. People also sometimes say facepalm in actual speech instead of doing the action.

 

A double facepalm or triple facepalm intensify the feelings of stupidity or frustration.

More examples of facepalm:

“Me: I think I might actually like the new Star Wars movie…because my expectations will be…So…Lo… Devin: *facepalm*”

—@gamedevftw, May 2018

“Mr. Schuester responds to Mr. Martinez and Santana’s performance by dressing as a matador and launching into a flamenco-inspired version of ‘A Little Less Conversation.’ It’s too embarrassing to post here, so go here if you want to facepalm en espanol.”

—Becky Bain, Idolator, February 2012

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.