Meaning of EXPRESSION in English

ex ‧ pres ‧ sion S2 W2 /ɪkˈspreʃ ə n/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: adverb : ↑ expressively , ↑ expressionlessly , ↑ inexpressibly ; adjective : ↑ expressive ≠ ↑ inexpressive , ↑ expressionless , ↑ inexpressible ; noun : ↑ expression , ↑ expressiveness ; verb : ↑ express ]

1 . STRONG FEELINGS/THOUGHTS [uncountable and countable] something you say, write, or do that shows what you think or feel

expression of

I decided to go to the meeting as an expression of support.

expression of sympathy/thanks/regret etc

The letter was a genuine expression of sympathy.

Student leaders are demanding greater freedom of expression (=the right to say what you think without being punished) .

give (political/religious/artistic) expression to something

The Socialist Party was founded to give political expression to the working classes.

Another writer who seeks to give expression to popular oral culture is José María Arguedas.

2 . ON SB’S FACE [uncountable and countable] a look on someone’s face that shows what they are thinking or feeling

expression of

an expression of surprise

There was a blank expression on her face (=no expression on her face) .

In the photograph he seemed devoid of facial expression (=having no expression on his face) .

A pained (=worried) expression crossed her face.

3 . WORD/PHRASE [countable] a word or group of words with a particular meaning:

The old-fashioned expression ‘in the family way’ means ‘pregnant’.

pardon/forgive/excuse the expression (=used when you think you may offend someone by using particular words)

After the climb we were absolutely knackered, if you’ll pardon the expression.

4 . MUSIC/ACTING [uncountable] when you put feeling or emotion into the music that you are making or into your acting

5 . MATHEMATICS [countable] technical a sign or group of signs that represent a mathematical idea or quantity

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ phrases

▪ freedom of expression (=the right to say what you think without being punished)

Student protestors who demanded greater freedom of expression were rounded up by police.

▪ an expression of regret

The military has not offered any expression of regret over the civilian loss of life.

▪ an expression of sympathy

There was no apology, no expression of sympathy for what Anna had suffered.

▪ an expression of concern

His release from prison provoked expressions of concern from members of the public.

▪ an expression of anger

She tried to protect the children from his expressions of anger.

▪ sb’s powers of expression formal (=the ability to say or write what you feel)

I tried to put my feelings down on paper, but my powers of expression failed me.

■ verbs

▪ give expression to something formal (=express something)

In the book, he gives expression to his political ideals.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 2)

■ adjectives

▪ sb’s facial expression

Victor’s facial expression never changed.

▪ a blank/vacant expression (=one that shows no emotion, understanding, or interest)

The blank expression on Bobbie’s face gave way to anger.

▪ an anxious/troubled/worried expression

She stood looking at me with an anxious expression.

▪ a pained expression (=one that shows you are in pain or feeling upset)

A pained expression crossed Rory’s face when he saw them together.

▪ a surprised/shocked expression

He didn’t need to speak – his shocked expression said it all.

▪ a puzzled/baffled/bewildered expression (=one that shows you are confused or cannot understand something)

I can still recall Dan’s baffled expression when I asked him for an answer.

▪ a grim/stern expression (=one that shows you are very strict or angry)

Aunty Kitty looked at us with a stern expression and ordered us indoors.

▪ an angry/furious expression

Her angry expression turned to one of utter despair.

▪ a serious expression (=one that shows you are not joking)

I saw the serious expression on his little face and tried not to laugh.

▪ a thoughtful expression (=one that shows you are thinking about something)

She listened to him with a thoughtful expression on her face.

▪ an innocent expression

‘It was so late,’ she continued with an innocent expression, ‘I had to stay the night.’

▪ a dazed expression (=one that shows you are unable to think clearly, especially because of a shock or accident)

His clothes were torn and there was a dazed expression on his face.

▪ a glazed expression (=one that shows you are not concentrating on the things around you)

From her glazed expression, he knew she had been taking drugs.

▪ a smug expression (=one that shows too much satisfaction with your own cleverness or success)

Peter was wearing an unbearably smug expression and waving the tickets in front of me.

▪ a bland expression (=one that does not show any emotion)

She searched his face for answers, but his bland expression gave nothing away.

■ verbs

▪ have an expression

His face had a puzzled expression.

▪ wear an expression

Their pilot wore an expression of extreme relief.

▪ change your expression

The child did not once cry or change her expression.

▪ watch sb’s expression

‘Does it really matter?’ Elizabeth asked, watching his expression closely.

▪ see sb’s expression

I would have liked to see his expression when she told him.

▪ read sb’s expression (=understand how someone is feeling by looking at their expression)

In the half light, Ellen could not read his expression.

■ phrases

▪ have an expression on your face

He had a very serious expression on his face.

▪ the expression on sb’s face

I could tell by the expression on her face that she was angry.

▪ a lack of expression

I was surprised at the lack of expression on his face.

▪ be devoid of expression formal (=have no expression on your face)

His face was totally devoid of expression, but I could sense his anger.

▪ an expression of surprise (=one showing that you are surprised)

He looked at me with an expression of surprise.

• • •

THESAURUS (for Meaning 2)

▪ expression a look on someone’s face that shows what they are thinking or feeling:

His expression became more serious as he listened to her story.


She had a contented expression.


He has a very different expression in the next picture.

▪ look an expression – used especially with adjectives that describe the expression. Look sounds less formal than expression :

She had a sad look on her face.


With a look of relief, he handed her the baby.


What’s that look for?


She gave me a dirty look (=a look that showed she was angry) .

▪ face used when talking about someone’s expression, especially in the following phrases:

You should have seen his face!


Look at my face. Am I bothered?


The boys were making faces (=making strange, silly, or rude expressions which show that you dislike someone) through the window.

■ different types of expression

▪ frown the expression on your face when you move your eyebrows together because you are angry, unhappy, or confused:

With a frown, she asked, ‘So what’s wrong with that?’

▪ smile an expression in which your mouth curves upwards, when you are being friendly or are happy or amused:

She gave him a quick smile.

▪ scowl an angry or disapproving expression:

There was a scowl of irritation on his face.

▪ glare a long angry look:

He gave her a furious glare, but said nothing.

▪ grimace an expression you make by twisting your face because you do not like something or because you are feeling pain:

His face twisted into a grimace of anguish.

▪ sneer an expression that shows you have no respect for something or someone:

‘That’s what you said last time,’ she said with a sneer.

▪ smirk an expression in which you smile in an unpleasant way that shows you are pleased by someone else’s bad luck or that you think you are better than other people:

He had a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

▪ pout an expression in which you push out your lower lip because you are unhappy that you did not get what you want:

‘You’re going away?’ she said with a pout.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 3)

■ adjectives

▪ a common expression

'Pig out' is a common expression meaning 'to eat a lot'.

▪ an old-fashioned/outdated expression

The old-fashioned expression 'in the family way' means to be pregnant.

▪ an idiomatic expression (=an idiom )

Try to avoid using idiomatic expressions in an essay.

▪ a figurative expression (=one in which words are not used with their literal meaning)

Many figurative expressions equate anger with heat.

▪ a coarse/vulgar expression (=one that is rude)

He came out with some vulgar expressions that I couldn’t possibly repeat.

▪ an American/English etc expression

She remembered the American expression her mother had always used: 'Life’s a breeze'.

■ phrases

▪ pardon/forgive the expression (=used when you have said a word or phrase that might offend someone)

After the climb, we were absolutely knackered, if you’ll pardon the expression.

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 4)

■ phrases

▪ a means of expression

Art is not just a means of expression, it is also a means of communication.

▪ a form of expression

Music and painting are two completely different forms of expression.

■ adjectives

▪ poetic/literary expression (=expressing something as poetry or in literature)

The subject does not easily lend itself to poetic expression.

▪ musical expression (=expressing something through music)

Charlie Parker took jazz to a new level of musical expression.

▪ artistic expression (=expressing something through art)

He firmly believes there are not enough outlets for artistic expression in our society.

▪ creative expression (=expressing something in a creative way, for example in music or art)

They work with the children to encourage creative expression.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.