Skip to main content
Select Source:

mask

mask, cover or partial cover for the face or head used as a disguise or protection. Masks have been worn from time immemorial throughout the world. They are used by primitive peoples chiefly to impersonate supernatural beings or animals in religious and magical ceremonies. Particularly notable are the masks of W and central Africa; the wooden masks of the Native Americans of NW North America, which sometimes represented totemic animals; the False Face Society of the Iroquois, whose masked dancers were thought to ward off evil spirits; and the gold and turquoise-mosaic masks of Aztec warriors and priests. Masks have always been especially important in drama, and their use has been continued into modern times. They are an integral part of Japanese drama, especially of the No plays, and of Chinese temple dramas (see Asian drama). The many masks used in ancient Greek drama represented the character being portrayed by the actor and were constructed to portray a fixed emotion such as grief or rage. Greek masks had metallic mouthpieces that enhanced the resonance of an actor's voice. The use of masks was preserved in the Roman theater, passed into the early Italian theater, and was a characteristic device of the commedia dell'arte. The mask was used in the miracle dramas of the Middle Ages and appeared in the 20th cent. in the works of the German expressionist playwrights and in Eugene O'Neill's plays The Great God Brown and Lazarus Laughed. The making of death masks (reproduction of the face of a dead person) is an ancient practice. Roman death masks were made of wax, and Egyptian death masks of thin gold plate. The modern method first applies oil or grease to the face and next a coat of plaster of paris, which is permitted to harden and is then removed. This procedure results in a mold that is used to cast the mask. Although a similar process was used for life masks, it often proved dangerous to the sitter and unsatisfactory in results. Protective masks include those used by medieval horsemen, gas masks, surgeon's masks, and masks used in certain athletic events. See African art; North American Native art; masque.

See R. Sieber, Masks as Agents of Social Control (1962); J. Gregor, Masks of the World (1937, repr. 1968); A. Lommel, Masks (tr. 1972), W. Sorrell, The Other Face (1974).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mask." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mask." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mask

"mask." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mask

mask

mask / mask/ • n. 1. a covering for all or part of the face, in particular: ∎  a covering worn as a disguise, or to amuse or terrify other people. ∎  a covering made of fiber or gauze and fitting over the nose and mouth to protect against dust or air pollutants, or made of sterile gauze and worn to prevent infection of the wearer or (in surgery) of the patient. ∎  a protective covering fitting over the whole face, worn in fencing, ice hockey, and other sports. ∎  a respirator used to filter inhaled air or to supply gas for inhalation. ∎  (also masque) a cosmetic preparation spread over the face and left for some time to cleanse and improve the skin. ∎  Entomol. the enlarged lower lip of a dragonfly larva, which can be extended to seize prey. 2. a likeness of a person's face in clay or wax, esp. one made by taking a mold from the face. ∎  a person's face regarded as having set into a particular expression: his face was a mask of rage. ∎  a hollow model of a human head worn by ancient Greek and Roman actors. ∎  the face or head of an animal, esp. of a fox, as a hunting trophy. ∎ archaic a masked person. 3. fig. a disguise or pretense: she let her mask of moderate respectability slip. 4. Photog. a piece of something, such as a card, used to cover a part of an image that is not required when exposing a print. ∎ Electr. a patterned metal film used in the manufacture of microcircuits to allow selective modification of the underlying material. • v. [tr.] cover (the face) with a mask. ∎  conceal (something) from view: the poplars masked a factory. ∎  disguise or hide (a sensation or quality): brandy did not completely mask the bitter taste. ∎  cover (an object or surface) so as to protect it from a process, esp. painting: mask off doors and cupboards with sheets of plastic. DERIVATIVES: masked adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mask." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mask." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask-0

"mask." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask-0

mask

mask (labial mask, labium) Organ formed from the labium, and found only in the nymphs of the insect order Odonata: it is so named because it covers the mouth-parts, and sometimes the face. It is prehensile, and nymphs use it to capture prey by extending it at high speed and impaling the prey on the terminal spikes, or by trapping prey in a basket formed by the mask and its associated bristles.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mask." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mask." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask

"mask." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask

mask

mask. Representation of a human, animal, or fantastic face used in architectural ornament, often part of grotesque decoration. See mascaron.

2. Label-stop (2) carved to resemble a head, called head- or mask-stop.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mask." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mask." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask-0

"mask." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask-0

mask

mask, maske. Old spellings of masque. Sometimes found attached to, for instance, a virginals piece, where it probably implies a dance of a suitable character for use in a masque.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mask." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mask." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask

"mask." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask

mask

mask covering to conceal the face. XVI. — F. masque — It. maschera, perh. — Arab. masḵara buffoon.
Hence vb. XVI.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mask." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mask." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask-1

"mask." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask-1

mask

mask To cover or coat a cooked meat dish with savoury jelly, glaze, or sauce; also to coat the inside of a mould with jelly.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mask." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mask." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask

"mask." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask

mask

maskBasque, Monégasque •ask, bask, cask, flask, Krasnoyarsk, mask, masque, task •facemask •arabesque, burlesque, Dantesque, desk, grotesque, humoresque, Junoesque, Kafkaesque, Moresque, picaresque, picturesque, plateresque, Pythonesque, Romanesque, sculpturesque, statuesque •bisque, brisk, disc, disk, fisc, frisk, risk, whisk •laserdisc • obelisk • basilisk •odalisque • tamarisk • asterisk •mosque, Tosk •kiosk • Nynorsk • brusque •busk, dusk, husk, musk, rusk, tusk •subfusc • Novosibirsk •mollusc (US mollusk) • damask •Vitebsk •Aleksandrovsk, Sverdlovsk •Khabarovsk • Komsomolsk •Omsk, Tomsk •Gdansk, Murmansk, Saransk •Smolensk •Chelyabinsk, MinskDonetsk, Novokuznetsk •Irkutsk, Yakutsk

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mask." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mask." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask

"mask." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mask