Some people become adept at completely hiding their natural reaction to a situation. Some may call this lying, or just control.

Neither of these describes when it is done swiftly in the moment, and done with such skill that most observers will not see the 'glimmer' of the natural reaction.

I think this is a form of lying, psychoanalytically-speaking, but I do not think malice is an inherent condition here - sometimes a leader or a parent will swiftly hide concern from their children or those who look to them for guidance. This latter case is not evil.

I would think that 'deft' is related, but am unsure if the element of concealment is an inherent quality of deftness. I am speaking to the swift-covering of the natural response, and want a word identifying that a natural reaction began, evanescently, and was deftly replaced by another visage.

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    Poker face, poker-faced. – Blessed Geek Aug 22 '13 at 3:35
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    I like poker-faced as well, but stoic or impassive may also apply. – Jim Aug 22 '13 at 4:33
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    S: (adj) deadpan, expressionless, impassive, poker-faced, unexpressive (deliberately impassive in manner) "deadpan humor"; "his face remained expressionless as the verdict was read" (WordNet Search 3.1) – MetaEd Aug 22 '13 at 5:20
  • Stolid might work. – Mike Aug 22 '13 at 7:01

Usually I'd say, "they had a good poker face."

poker face (plural poker faces) (poker)

  1. An impassive facial expression cultivated to prevent other players from determining whether one's actions in the game are the result of a quality hand, or of bluffing.

  2. Any similar expression used to prevent giving away one's motives, feelings, or situation.

Edit: It has been brought to my attention that I failed to cite the above c&p. The definition is from Wiktionary

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    Poker face implies a mask-like facies - meaning showing no emotion at all - that is not skillful concealment – user49727 Aug 22 '13 at 16:46
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    Not necessarily, I've often heard it used in the context of having a person's expression not change from whatever it was before. It doesn't necessarily need to be a stonewall. – Jacobm001 Aug 22 '13 at 16:52
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    Again, I'd disagree. It takes a lot of skill to maintain a good poker face. – Jacobm001 Aug 22 '13 at 17:32
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    It's not really a matter of opinion - Show me which description of this term implies adroit concealment – user49727 Aug 22 '13 at 18:06
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    @user49727 It's within the actual definition: "used to prevent giving away one's motives, feelings..." Having a poker face means you are deliberately emotionless, straight-faced, impassible etc. It's a valid answer but one which was first provided by Blessed Geek. – Mari-Lou A Aug 23 '13 at 15:50

You might consider composed

free from agitation : calm; especially : self-possessed

He had told us he felt nervous about the performance, but he seemed perfectly composed when he walked onto the stage.

Note that composed does not necessarily mean an appearance that is at odds with the person's true emotional state.

Similarly you might consider self-possessed

having control of one's emotions, etc


On second thought, perhaps the verb mask applies

To conceal one's real personality, character, or intentions.

You could say, To calm their children, the parents masked their fear of the marauding bear.

  • nor does composed describe the adroit concealment in the moment - to me 'composed' more describes a state of preparation – New Alexandria Aug 22 '13 at 15:22
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    In the movie All That Jazz, Roy Scheider wakes up, looks in the mirror and is obviously feeling tired, ill, hung over and miserable. He waves his hand in front of his face, says Showtime! and an alert, happy grin is on his face. Concealing and adroit and I don't have an exact word to describe it. – bib Aug 22 '13 at 15:30


Definition 1: mysterious and not allowing people to know what you are thinking:

2. enigmatic or inscrutable

He sat silently with a sphinx-like smile on his face.


Definition: Difficult to fathom or understand; impenetrable. [from Late Latin inscrūtābilis, scrūtārī to examine]

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    I like these words very much, but I can't say I see how they indicate that process of rapid-and-skillful-concealment that goes on with a person. Poker-faced is the best I've heard, perhaps – New Alexandria Aug 22 '13 at 15:23
  • @NewAlexandria Perhaps not rapid nor immediate hiding of one's emotions but definitely there is a certain ability implied in both terms. For example, my face has been said to be like an open book; if I feel joy, sadness or irritation it is stamped on my face without any conscious effort on my behalf. No one has ever said it is difficult to know what I am thinking! To pretend to experience different feelings is a "skill" (not sure I would class it as such) that I'd imagine one could become adept through practice or by sheer necessity. – Mari-Lou A Aug 23 '13 at 15:59

Belie - to give a false idea or impression of something

His bright smile belied his actual mood, which was really one of great sadness.

Veneer - a way of behaving or appearing that gives other people a false idea of your true feelings or situation

A rigid veneer of courtesy hid her mounting fury.

Dissemble - to hide your true feelings, opinions, etc.

He dissembled happiness at the news that his old girlfriend was getting married—to someone else

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    Welcome to ELU.SE! While these are useful, please read the Stack Exchange policy and our Meta post on referencing the work of others. Please use the > symbol to indicate quotes from elsewhere, and offer a minimal citation and a link. – Andrew Leach Jul 10 '14 at 7:17
  • Besides 'mask' and 'poker face', "dissimulate" and "dissemble" seem to most-often have the usage that was the focus of my question: the swift-covering of the natural response. I am specifically looking to identify that a natural reaction began, evanescently, and was deftly replaced by another visage. – New Alexandria Jul 10 '14 at 15:29

Although there are words to describe swift or skilful, I don't believe there is a specific word to describe skilful at hiding emotions per se.

Adroit might be a reasonable fit in this instance, as in: he was adroit at disguising his true feelings, whilst adept might be another.



Someone who hides behind a smile, when all they want to do is hide and/or die. ( There is so many, they actually made a word for it.) She's eccedentesiast after she had to break up with Dylan...

This was taken from the Urban dictionary.

  • There's also a collins dictionary definition. – dwjohnston Feb 10 '16 at 2:09

Are any of the following appropriate?





There is wilful concealment implied in all these words I think.

  • You should compile all the suggestions in the comments into your answer, so that it would be (possibly?) voted as the answer. – Blessed Geek Aug 22 '13 at 5:36
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    @BlessedGeek I disagree, that would be akin to co-opting someone else's answer. User49727 would do well to say "why" his/her suggestions are valid rather than asking the OP's opinion. – Mari-Lou A Aug 22 '13 at 6:20
  • Someone has to do it - to provide closure to the question, where the closure is amply provided in the comments. – Blessed Geek Aug 22 '13 at 8:27
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    @BlessedGeek The first answer in a comment was yours - you do it! – TrevorD Aug 22 '13 at 12:06
  • Agreed, @TrevorD. I see people do this ALL THE TIME across stackexchange sites. I wish there was a large survey of users' choices, in regards like these. Many times, I stop writing a comment and instead write an answer. Are people trying to be too-perfect? – New Alexandria Aug 22 '13 at 13:19

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