Definition of physiognomy in English:


See synonyms for physiognomy

Translate physiognomy into Spanish

nounplural noun physiognomies

  • 1A person's facial features or expression, especially when regarded as indicative of character or ethnic origin.

    ‘friends began to notice a change in his physiognomy’
    • ‘According to late medieval beliefs, their exemplary characters would have expressed themselves in their physiognomies and gestures as much as in their deeds.’
    • ‘Their physiognomies were based on a Belgian Art Nouveau bust that he found in a flea market.’
    • ‘These dislocated physiognomies are searing psychic masks whose crazed features seem to express the artist's creative and psychological isolation.’
    • ‘This aside, however, it seems that even in Brazil the term is especially applicable to certain nationalities and physiognomies.’
    • ‘And we do frequently identify people on this basis too - I recognize someone walking down the hall as the dean of the college by his physiognomy, attire, voice, etc.’
    • ‘Perhaps being disposed to look for affinities, I do see something to connect the physiognomies, in a certain fleshiness of the features, the long prominent noses, the deep upper lips.’
    • ‘Say ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, and the person you are speaking to will see in the mind's eye Spencer Tracy's amiably pudgy features dissolving into the monstrous physiognomy of Edward Hyde.’
    • ‘Her hair and facial features were indistinct, and the only part of her physiognomy that was vivid were her eyes.’
    • ‘There is a tradition in high art - the kind Bacon made - of studying, or fantasising, the head itself, mapping the extremes of expression and physiognomy.’
    • ‘People delighted in decoding the physiognomy of the ordinary faces that crowded the pages of the popular press.’
    • ‘By the later eighteenth century, Johann Caspar Lavater insisted on profile silhouettes as the most stable means of representing physiognomies.’
    • ‘The exquisite design work and miniature sets, and the jerky marionettes with eerily lifelike physiognomies, never looked better than in these two grand features.’
    • ‘But this woman has committed to memory all the essentials of her own physiognomy, and can conjure up, time and again, her own basic likeness without resorting to a mirror.’
    • ‘There is nothing in his prose or his physiognomy to suggest that he will become flabby or paunchy.’
    face, features, physiognomy, profile
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    1. 1.1The supposed art of judging character from facial characteristics.
      ‘a world where physiognomy was a respected practice’
      • ‘Yet what emerges after Aristotle is a complex relationship between the classical mode of reading and judging character - physiognomy - and the rise and triumph of inner, scientific understandings of expression based on physiology.’
      • ‘Many bigots and racists still use physiognomy to judge character and personality.’
      • ‘He used this time to study formal logic, social psychology, physiognomy, and craniometry, which laid the foundations of a broad approach in medicine.’
      • ‘Lavater linked silhouettes to the ‘science’ of physiognomy, which aimed to discern a person's character from their facial features.’
      • ‘The science of physiognomy was of particular importance to the ancient Greeks.’
      • ‘Biometrics posits that there are unique, measurable, and permanent physical features, which is why this science - like physiognomy before it - has difficulty with the simple fact that people change.’
      • ‘With the figures of Duchene, Warhol and Sherman as anchors, Sobieszek ranges a near full history of physiognomy, pathognomy and phrenology from Aristotle to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.’
      • ‘The paper focused on physiognomy, which suggests that the ‘beauty’ under discussion is a natural endowment.’
      • ‘I told him I was new to painting, not to physiognomy.’
      • ‘Some palmistry mimics metoposcopy or physiognomy.’
      • ‘There is no doubt that Charles Darwin was sceptical about the claims of physiognomy with regard to expression and emotion.’
    2. 1.2The general form or appearance of something.
      ‘the physiognomy of the landscape’
      • ‘The opera houses of Charles Garnier in Paris and Gottfried Semper in Dresden are memorable precisely because their expressive physiognomy is a kind of exultant precis of the spaces and happenings within.’
      • ‘For the lovely Larghetto in II, Bilson gives each note its own character, even its own physiognomy.’
      • ‘The attempt to create the mirage of value through speculative activities independent of the production process had a profound effect on the character of American capitalism and the social physiognomy of its ruling elite.’
      • ‘The regional physiognomy is characterized by broad ridges and rugged dissected stream valleys cutting through sedimentary rocks and scattered igneous knobs.’
      • ‘The end of the Cold War and the eruption of US militarism have vindicated the analysis of imperialism made by Lenin, who characterized its political physiognomy as ‘reaction all along the line.’’
      • ‘The physiognomy of the city and the bearing of its inhabitants share the portentous aspect of a drama.’
      • ‘Thus it's hardly surprising that the distinctive physiognomy of the mountain is integral to the drawn and photographed records of the city, and has provided an ongoing source of inspiration to her poets, artists and writers.’
      • ‘In these revisions of the still life, he addresses himself to the latencies that everyday objects hold, patiently brings to light the secret lives that their workaday physiognomies disguise.’
      • ‘Men would not have found the means of independent life; they would simply have discovered (no easy task) a new physiognomy of servitude.’
      • ‘This larger confederation would in turn be a particular state, with its own personality, its own interests, its own physiognomy.’
      • ‘I'm put off by the rote lingo of liturgies, and I can never quite square the exceedingly European Jesus of my childhood lesson books with the physiognomy of the region.’
      • ‘Today, some restingas still suffer man-made impact through fire or cattle, but even apparently pristine areas display an open physiognomy.’
      • ‘They appropriated the symbolic authority, as well as the physiognomy of the architecture.’
      • ‘The approach towards these limits gives rise to significant changes in the physiognomy of the capitalist economy.’
      • ‘But in the half-century that had passed since Robespierre's Jacobins waged their life and death struggle against feudal reaction, the economic structure and social physiognomy of Europe had changed.’
      • ‘Distance estimation to unseen birds is difficult, because attenuation of bird vocalizations is affected by vegetation type and physiognomy, position of the bird relative to the observer, and song or call pitch.’
      • ‘The description of the ‘new’ working class dance halls in this passage emphasizes the rising importance of the proletariat for the city's physiognomy.’
      • ‘The basic political physiognomy of the UAW remains the same today as it was during the Cold War, above all its fear of socialism and hatred of its Marxist opponents.’
      • ‘Scrub with a slightly different physiognomy is present in two areas north of the river.’
      • ‘Trends in cuticular species richness parallel inferred changes in vegetation physiognomy and biomass.’



/ˌfizēˈä(ɡ)nəmē/ /ˌfɪziˈɑ(ɡ)nəmi/


Late Middle English from Old French phisonomie, via medieval Latin from Greek phusiognōmonia ‘judging of a man's nature (by his features)’, based on gnōmōn ‘a judge, interpreter’.