What does the idiom "keep a straight face" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does keep a straight face mean? In what situations is keep a straight face used?

Meaning of "keep a straight face"


The idiom 'keep a straight face' means to express no emotion, even when something funny or amusing has been said or done. It is used to describe someone who is able to remain expressionless and not react in any way.


The phrase 'keep a straight face' is believed to date back to the early 16th century, when it first appeared in print. The phrase was used to describe someone who was able to maintain a serious expression in spite of the amusing things that were being said or done. Since then, the phrase has evolved to encompass all types of expressions or reactions, from the serious and the funny, to the sad and the silly.


The phrase 'keep a straight face' is often used when someone is trying to stay composed in a particular situation. For example, if someone is trying to act serious in the workplace, they might use the phrase to describe their state of composure. It can also be used to describe someone who is able to maintain composure in the face of a joke, or in the face of an embarrassing moment.

Example Sentences

  • No matter what ridiculous things his friends said, he was able to keep a straight face.
  • The boss was so serious and stern, no one dared laugh or even crack a smile, lest they had to keep a straight face.
  • I tried to keep a straight face, but the joke was so funny I couldn't help but laugh.

The meanings of the words in the "keep a straight face" idiom

The power of idioms transcends languages!

"Putting the cart before the horse" is an English idiom that means doing things in the wrong order. In Russian, the similar idiom is "Кладёт колесо впереди лошади," which translates to "Putting the cart before the horse." This idiom emphasizes the idea that doing things in the wrong order can lead to confusion and problems down the line.


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