[rik-tuh s]

noun, plural ric·tus, ric·tus·es.

the gape of the mouth of a bird.
the gaping or opening of the mouth.

Origin of rictus

1750–60; < Latin: wide-open mouth, equivalent to rig-, variant stem of ringī to open the mouth wide + -tus suffix of v. action.
Related formsric·tal, adjectivesub·ric·tal, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rictus

Historical Examples of rictus

  • The lovely lips twisted into a rictus sneer, frightening on that smooth young face, until she got them under control.

  • Then his mouth twisted in a rictus of dreadful mirth, so wrung was he with pain, yet so overcome by what he had seen.

  • His gold tooth, gleaming in the light, made his rictus of passion more venomous, more malevolent still.

    The Air Trust

    George Allan England

  • He only stood and smiled—that awful smile which expressed more anguish than any rictus of pain.

  • The sensation of gaiety due to the sudden shock caused by the rictus of Gwynplaine was evidently not intended by Ursus.

British Dictionary definitions for rictus


noun plural -tus or -tuses

the gap or cleft of an open mouth or beak
a fixed or unnatural grin or grimace, as in horror or death
Derived Formsrictal, adjective

Word Origin for rictus

C18: from Latin, from ringī to gape
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