lose face

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Calque of Chinese 丟臉丢脸 (diūliǎn) or 丟面子丢面子 (diū miànzi), both literally “lose face”.


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lose face (third-person singular simple present loses face, present participle losing face, simple past and past participle lost face)

  1. (idiomatic) To lose the respect of others; to be humiliated or experience public disgrace.
    • 1942 March, “Notes and News: Monument to a Stillborn Railway”, in Railway Magazine, page 88:
      "The Chengtu revolutionaries were fantastically colourful in the Szechwanese manner—they costumed themselves as heroes of the stage and their energies were chiefly occupied in tying ropes across the main streets so that when Imperial officials rode by in their litters they would have to get down and crawl under, losing face.
    • 1986, John Shelby Spong, Beyond Moralism: A Contemporary View of the Ten Commandments[1], HarperCollins, published 2000, →ISBN:
      Ahithophel, Absalom's chief counsel, hanged himself when he lost face after his advice was rejected.
    • 1996 March 15, Evans, Michael, “China offensive cannot be ruled out, experts say”, in The Times[2], number 65,528, ISSN 0140-0460, OCLC 502384265, Overseas News, page 14, column 7:
      The intelligence sources said the Chinese would not want to lose face. One source said, however: "The show of military muscle has provoked an international reaction and that may be enough face saved."
    • 2011, Mel Robbins, Stop Saying You're Fine: Discover a More Powerful You, Crown Archetype, published 2011, →ISBN, page 221:
      When you start to feel unmotivated, you will look for ways to weasel out of your commitments. We all do it. If there's a stealth way to back out, without ever losing face, you will do it without hesitation.
    • 2012, Sharon Pincott, Battle for the President's Elephants: Life, Lunacy and Elation in the African Bush, Jacana Media, published 2012, →ISBN, page 97:
      He had arranged for one of his managers to be present in the office with us, so I should have realised immediately that there was little chance of him backing down since that would have meant losing face in front of a subordinate.

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