• A face, especially the appearance or expression of a face

  • The appearance of a thing, especially the overall appearance which generates a distinct impression


You are probably aware that you have a visage, but did you know that your visage has a visage? Visage can refer simply to your literal face, but it can also refer to the expression which your face is wearing at a given moment. Ordinarily, however, one wouldn't use both of these senses of the word in the same sentence. For example, you might announce, "Heads up! Barbara is on her way with a most displeased visage!" This would mean that Barbara's face is bearing a displeased expression. In this particular case, Barbara's visage is accurately portraying her internal state of mind, but at other times a person's visage might be a façade or a veneer, concealing what that person is actually feeling. A façade or veneer always hides something beneath it, but a visage is merely an appearance, whether genuine or fabricated.

We could also rephrase the above example and say, "Barbara's visage is marred by an angry, furrowed brow!" In this revision, visage refers to Barbara's face, while in the original it referred to her facial expression. Similarly, a poet might praise his beloved's beauty, from her slender ankles to her pale visage. In this usage, visage refers to the lady's face as a whole, rather than the particular expression which it bears at the time.

A slightly less common but still prevalent usage of visage broadens the idea of the general appearance or countenance from faces to things in general. For example, if you were considering living at a new apartment complex, you might frown and remark, "The price is decent, but I'm not too impressed by the slightly trashy visage of the neighborhood." In so saying, you would be describing the impression created by the overall appearance of the neighborhood. You can sometimes judge the general quality of something by its visage, in the same way that you can judge a person's general mood from their visage.

Example: The visage chiseled by the amateur sculptor was a truly horrifying spectacle!

Example: Although Miss Jones insisted that her recent breakup was of little consequence to her, a single attentive glance at her sorrowful visage was more than sufficient to contradict her statement.

Example: In my opinion, the rustic visage of downtown Berryburg is truly charming.


The word was appropriated into English from the Anglo-French language at the turn of the 12th century. It derives from the Old French visage which means "face," "countenance," or "portrait." This term is taken from the Old French vis which means "face." Vis derives in turn from the Latin visus, meaning "a look" or "vision," which comes from the Latin verb videre, meaning "to see."

Derivative Words

Visaged: This adjective form describes something which possesses a particular kind of visage.

Example: The grim-visaged soldier cast a rueful eye over the fresh-faced young recruits.

Envisage: This verb form refers to the act of imagining a certain state of being or mental picture.

Example: From the other side of the room, Bill found it remarkably easy to envisage himself dancing elegantly with Mary.

In Literature

From Percy Byshe Shelley's "Ozymandias":

I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said-"Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies…

Here, Shelley uses visage to refer to a vast, crumbling stone face which has fallen from an enormous statue of the ancient ruler, Ozymandias.

In Pop Culture

From Alan Moore's V for Vendetta:

In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished.

This intentionally opaque stream of alliteration, delivered by the enigmatic V, uses visage to refer to the dramatic persona through which V spreads his ideals.


  • Visage sounds like a combination of "vision" and "image" like an image which appears to our vision.

  • A visage can be an emotional visor over our face or our face itself.


Face, Appearance, Body

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of visage. Did you use visage in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.