Word of the Day


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1. something that you wear to cover part or all of your face in order to protect it from something harmful such as poisonous gas, bacteria, or smoke
a. something that you wear to cover part or all of your face in order to hide who you are or for decoration
2. an expression on someone’s face that hides their true feelings, thoughts, or character
3. a wet substance used for cleaning your skin that you put on your face and allow to dry before removing it

Origin and usage

The word mask is most closely derived from the Medieval Latin word ‘masca’ meaning ‘spectre or nightmare’. In English, the word dates back to the 1530s when it was anglicized from the Middle French word ‘masque’ meaning ‘a cover or guard for the face’.


Mask refers to a number of different things having to do with the face.

A mask can offer protection from harmful fumes or poisonous gases, smoke, pollution or bacteria. Firefighters wear masks that allow them to breathe, even in heavy smoke. Painters, carpenters and other workers often wear masks to keep fumes and dust from entering their mouth and lungs. Doctors and nurses sometimes wear masks when treating sick patients so they don’t spread germs.

Actors and other performers sometimes wear masks to hide their real identities when they are playing certain characters. In many places around the world, masks are an important part of cultural ceremonies and rituals.

Many healthy skin regimens include a facial mask. These can be thick like paste, thin like soap lather or a soft, flexible sheet that is applied to the face, allowed to dry or harden, then removed to help clean and moisturize the skin.


“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
(Oscar Wilde)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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