assessment of a person's character or personality from their outer appearance
Physiognomy (from the Gk. physis meaning "nature" and gnomon meaning "judge" or "interpreter") is the assessment of a person's character or personality from his or her outer appearance, especially the face. The term can also refer to the general appearance of a person, object, or terrain, without reference to its implied characteristics, as in the physiognomy of a plant community.
- It is possible to infer character from features, if it is granted that the body and the soul are changed together by the natural affections: I say "natural", for though perhaps by learning music a man has made some change in his soul, this is not one of those affections natural to us; rather I refer to passions and desires when I speak of natural emotions. If then this were granted and also that for each change there is a corresponding sign, and we could state the affection and sign proper to each kind of animal, we shall be able to infer character from features.
- Aristotle, Analytica Priora (Prior Analytics), 2.27 (Trans. A. J. Jenkinson)
- The scope of an intellect is not to be measured with a tape-string, or a character deciphered from the shape or length of a nose.
- Christian Nestell Bovee, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought, Volume II, p. 82 (1862)
- [T]here is surely a Physiognomy, which those experienced and Master Mendicants observe… For there are mystically in our faces certain Characters that carry in them the motto of our Souls, wherein he that cannot read A.B.C. may read our natures.
- Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, Part II, Section 2 (1642)
- Since the Brow speaks often true, since Eyes and Noses have Tongues, and the countenance proclaims the heart and inclinations; let observation so far instruct thee in Physiognomical lines....we often observe that Men do most act those Creatures, whose constitution, parts, and complexion do most predominate in their mixtures. This is a corner-stone in Physiognomy… there are therefore Provincial Faces, National Lips and Noses, which testify not only the Natures of those Countries, but of those which have them elsewhere.
- Thomas Browne, Christian Morals, Part II, Section 9 (circa 1675)
- A face that had a story to tell. How different faces are in this particular! Some of them speak not. They are books in which not a line is written, save perhaps a date.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Hyperion (1839), Book I, Chapter IV.
- * Sæpe tacens vocem verbaque vultus habet.
- Often a silent face has voice and words.
- Ovid, Ars Amatoria, Book I. 574.
- All men's faces are true, whatsome'er their hands are.
- William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra (1600s), Act II, scene 6, line 102.
- Thou hast a grim appearance, and thy face
Bears a command in 't: though thy tackle's torn,
Thou show'st a noble vessel.
- William Shakespeare, Coriolanus (c. 1607-08), Act IV, scene 5, line 66.
- There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face.
- William Shakespeare, Macbeth (1605), Act I, scene 4, line 11.
- Your face, my thane, is a book where men
May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
Look like the time.
- William Shakespeare, Macbeth (1605), Act I, scene 5, line 63.
- I knowe wele by thy fisnamy, thy kynd it were to stele.
- Tale of Beryn (a spurious 15th century addition to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales)
- Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man's face. It cannot be concealed. People talk sometimes of secret vices. There are no such things. If a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids, the moulding of his hands even.
- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ch. 12 (1890)