Meaning of FACE in English

I. face 1 S1 W1 /feɪs/ BrE AmE noun [countable]

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Language: Old French ; Origin: Latin facies 'form, face' , from facere 'to make' ]

1 . FRONT OF YOUR HEAD the front part of your head, where your eyes, nose, and mouth are:

She had a beautiful face.

Her face was white with fear.

A big smile spread across his face.

I felt like punching him in the face.

► You say that something is on sb’s face , not ‘in sb’s face’ : You’ve got a mark on your face.

2 . EXPRESSION an expression on someone’s face:

I’ll never forget my father’s face – I’d never seen him so upset before.

3 . keep a straight face to not laugh or smile, even though something is funny

4 . pale-faced/round-faced etc having a face that has a particular colour or shape:

a pale-faced youth

⇨ ↑ red-faced

5 . grim-faced/serious-faced etc showing a particular expression on your face:

Negotiators emerged grim-faced after the day’s talks.

⇨ ↑ barefaced , ↑ po-faced , ↑ poker-faced , ↑ stony-faced

6 . PERSON a person

new/different face (=someone who you have not seen before)

There are a few new faces in class this year.

Gordon is a familiar face (=someone who you know or have seen many times before) at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

It’s the same old faces (=people who you see often, especially too often) at our meetings every week.

famous/well-known face (=someone who is famous from television, magazines, films etc)

She looked around at the sea of faces (=lots of people seen together) in the cafeteria.

7 . face to face

a) if two people are standing face to face, they are very close and are looking at each other

meet somebody/talk to somebody/explain something etc face to face (=to meet someone and talk to them, instead of just hearing about them, talking to them on the phone etc)

I’ve never met her face to face.

‘You could have just phoned.’ ‘I wanted to explain things face to face.’

come face to face/find yourself face to face (with somebody) (=to meet someone, especially in a way that surprises or frightens you)

At that moment he came face to face with Sergeant Burke.

The two men stood face to face without a word.

b) if you come face to face with something difficult, you experience it and have to deal with it:

It was the first time he’d ever come face to face with death.

bring somebody face to face with something

Sometimes one is brought face to face with facts which cannot be ignored.

⇨ ↑ face-to-face

8 . say something/tell somebody something to their face if you say something unpleasant to someone’s face, you say it to them directly, rather than to other people:

I told him to his face just what I thought of him.

9 . face down/downwards with the face or front towards the ground:

Keith was lying face down on the bed.

10 . face up/upwards with the face or front towards the sky:

The body was lying face up in the rain.

11 . in the face of something in a situation where there are many problems, difficulties, or dangers:

It is amazing how Daniels has survived in the face of such strong opposition from within the party.

12 . on the face of it used to say that something seems true but that you think there may be other facts about it which are not yet clear:

It looks, on the face of it, like a minor change in the regulations.

On the face of it, his suggestion makes sense.

13 . the face of something

a) the nature or character of an organization, industry, system etc, and the way it appears to people:

technology that has changed the face of society

Is this the new face of the Tory party?

the ugly/unacceptable/acceptable face of something (=the qualities of an organization, industry etc which people find unacceptable or acceptable)

the unacceptable face of capitalism

b) the general appearance of a particular place:

the changing face of the landscape

14 . MOUNTAIN/CLIFF the face of a mountain, cliff etc is a steep vertical surface or side

face of

He fell and died while attempting to climb the north face of Mont Blanc.

The cliff face was starting to crumble into the sea.

a sheer (=very steep) rock face

15 .

CLOCK the front part of a clock or watch, where the numbers and hands are

16 . lose face if you lose face, you do something which makes you seem weak, stupid etc, and which makes people respect you less:

He doesn’t want to back down (=accept defeat in an argument) and risk losing face.

17 . save face if you do something to save face, you do it so that people will not lose their respect for you:

Both countries saved face with the compromise.

18 . disappear/vanish from/off the face of the earth used to say that you have no idea where someone is and have not seen them in a very long time:

I haven’t seen Paul in ages; he seems to have vanished off the face of the earth.

19 . on the face of the earth used when you are emphasizing a statement to mean ‘in the whole world’:

If she were the last woman on the face of the earth, I still wouldn’t be interested!

20 . sb’s face doesn’t fit used to say that someone will not get or keep a particular job because they are not the kind of person that the employer wants

21 . set your face against something especially British English to be very determined that something should not happen:

The local Labour Party has set its face against the scheme.

22 . MINE the part of a mine from which coal, stone etc is cut ⇨ ↑ coalface

23 . OUTSIDE SURFACE one of the outside surfaces of an object or building:

A cube has six faces.

24 . SPORT the part of a ↑ racket or ↑ bat etc that you use to hit the ball

25 . in your face spoken informal behaviour, criticisms, remarks etc that are in your face are very direct and often shocking or surprising:

Bingham has a very ‘in your face’ writing style.

26 . get in sb’s face spoken informal if someone gets in your face, they really annoy you

27 . get out of my face spoken informal used to tell someone in an impolite way to go away because they are annoying you

28 . what’s his face/what’s her face spoken informal used as a way of talking about someone when you cannot remember their name:

I saw old what’s his face in school yesterday.

29 . put your face on informal to put ↑ make-up on:

I just need to run upstairs and put my face on.

⇨ blow up in sb’s face at ↑ blow up (7), ⇨ put on a brave face at ↑ brave 1 (3), ⇨ do something till you’re blue in the face at ↑ blue 1 (4), ⇨ have egg on your face at ↑ egg 1 (5), ⇨ ↑ face-to-face , ⇨ fly in the face of at ↑ fly 1 (18), ⇨ laugh in sb’s face at ↑ laugh 1 (11), ⇨ long face at ↑ long 1 (12), ⇨ not just a pretty face at ↑ pretty 2 (4), ⇨ show your face at ↑ show 1 (15), ⇨ shut your face at ↑ shut 1 (2), ⇨ a slap in the face at ↑ slap 2 (2), ⇨ be staring somebody in the face at ↑ stare 1 (2), ⇨ a straight face at ↑ straight 2 (8), ⇨ wipe something off the face of the earth at ↑ wipe 1 (8), ⇨ wipe the smile/grin off sb’s face at ↑ wipe 1 (7), ⇨ have something written all over your face at ↑ write (10)

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meanings 1 & 2)

■ adjectives

▪ pretty/beautiful/handsome etc

Her face was beautiful in the morning light.

▪ round/oval/square

Her face was round and jolly.

▪ thin/narrow

Tears rolled down her thin face.

▪ pale/dark

His face suddenly became pale and I thought he was going to faint.

▪ an angular face (=so thin that you can see the bones)

She stared at his dark, angular face.

▪ sad/serious

Maggie looked at him with a sad face.

▪ happy/smiling

Shelley looked at the children’s happy faces.

▪ a grinning face

He looked down at the boy’s grinning face.

▪ angry

Beth’s angry face stared fiercely at her husband.

▪ worried/anxious

My father watched us go with a worried face.

▪ puzzled

He looked at his son’s puzzled face.

▪ blank/impassive (=showing no emotion or thoughts)

What was she really thinking behind that blank face?

▪ wrinkled/lined (=with a lot of small lines, especially because of old age)

His wrinkled face must once have been handsome.

▪ scowling (=one that shows you are not pleased about something)

He looked around and saw his boss's scowling face behind him.

▪ a long face (=an unhappy expression)

What’s the long face for?

■ verbs

▪ sb’s face goes/turns red (=becomes red)

His face went red with embarrassment.

▪ sb’s face goes/turns pale (=becomes pale)

I saw her face go pale when he walked in.

▪ sb’s face lights up/brightens (=they start to look happy)

Denise’s face lit up when she heard the news.

▪ sb’s face darkens (=they start to look angry or threatening)

She handed him the letter and his face darkened.

▪ sb’s face falls (=they look sad or disappointed)

Her face fell when she saw who it was.

▪ pull/make a face (=to change your expression to make people laugh or to show you are angry, disappointed etc)

Here’s a funny photo of Joe pulling a face.

▪ sb’s face is contorted with anger/rage (=someone’s face is twisted out of its normal shape because they are angry)

Eve’s face was contorted with anger as she picked up the broken vase.

■ phrases

▪ a look/expression on sb’s face

She had a rather surprised look on her face.


I could tell by the look on Dan’s face that he was disappointed.

▪ a smile/grin/frown on sb’s face

There was a mischievous grin on her face.


He was reading the newspaper with a frown on his face.

▪ you can see something in sb’s face (=you know what someone is feeling from the expression on their face)

She could see the despair in his face.

▪ something is written all over sb’s face (=their feelings can be seen very clearly in their expression)

You’re jealous – it’s written all over your face!

▪ you should have seen sb’s face (=used to say that someone was very angry, surprised etc)

You should have seen his face when I told him that I was resigning.

▪ a face like thunder (=a very angry expression)

The boss had a face like thunder when he arrived this morning.

• • •


▪ 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.

II. face 2 S1 W1 BrE AmE verb [transitive]

1 . DIFFICULT SITUATION if you face or are faced with a difficult situation, or if a difficult situation faces you, it is going to affect you and you must deal with it:

Emergency services are facing additional problems this winter.

The President faces the difficult task of putting the economy back on its feet.

McManus is facing the biggest challenge of his career.

As the project comes to an end, many workers now face an uncertain future.

He must face the prospect of financial ruin.

be faced with something

I was faced with the awful job of breaking the news to the girl’s family.

the difficulties faced by the police

If he is found guilty, he faces up to 12 years in jail.

face charges/prosecution (=have legal charges brought against you)

He was the first member of the former government to face criminal charges.

2 . ADMIT A PROBLEM EXISTS ( also face up to something ) to accept that a difficult situation or problem exists, even though you would prefer to ignore it:

Many couples refuse to face the fact that there are problems in their marriage.

You’ve got to face facts, Rachel. You can’t survive on a salary that low.

He had to face the awful truth that she no longer loved him.

Face it, kid. You’re never going to be a rock star.

3 . can’t face if you can’t face something, you feel unable to do it because it seems too unpleasant or difficult:

I don’t want to go back to college – I just can’t face it.

I can’t face the thought of going into town when it’s this hot.

She couldn’t face the prospect of another divorce.

can’t face doing something

He couldn’t face driving all the way to Los Angeles.

4 . TALK/DEAL WITH SOMEBODY to talk or deal with someone, when this is unpleasant or difficult for you:

You’re going to have to face him sooner or later.

I don’t know how I’m going to face her after what happened.

The accident left her feeling depressed and unable to face the world (=be with people and live a normal life) .

5 . BE OPPOSITE to be opposite someone or something, or to be looking or pointing in a particular direction:

The two men stood facing each other, smiling.

When he turned to face her, he seemed annoyed.

Lunch is served on the terrace facing the sea.

south-facing/west-facing etc

a south-facing garden

face north/east etc

The dining room faces east.

6 . OPPONENT/TEAM to play against an opponent or team in a game or competition:

Martinez will face Robertson in tomorrow’s final.

7 . face the music informal to accept criticism or punishment for something you have done

8 . BUILDING be faced with stone/concrete etc a building that is faced with stone, ↑ concrete etc has a layer of that material on its outside surfaces

• • •


■ nouns

▪ face a problem

She told me about some of the problems she was facing.

▪ face a difficulty

The hotel’s owners were facing financial difficulties.

▪ face a challenge

The coal industry faces serious challenges.

▪ face the task of doing something

He faced the task of preparing a three-course meal for 50 people.

▪ face a danger

He has the courage to face danger in spite of fear.

▪ face opposition (=deal with strong disagreement)

The government faced opposition from the Liberal Democrats.

▪ face charges (=be accused of a crime and have to go to a court of law)

He faces charges of fraud and theft.

▪ face an uncertain/difficult future

The company is facing an uncertain future.

▪ face the prospect of something (=something in the future is going to affect you and you will have to deal with it)

Many coastal cities face the prospect of disastrous flooding.

face somebody ↔ down phrasal verb especially American English

to deal in a strong and confident way with someone who opposes you:

Harrison successfully faced down the mob of angry workers.

face off phrasal verb American English

to fight, argue, or compete with someone, or to get into a position in which you are ready to do this:

The two candidates will face off in a televised debate on Friday.

face up to something phrasal verb

to accept and deal with a difficult fact or problem:

They’ll never offer you another job; you might as well face up to it.

She had to face up to the fact that he was guilty.

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