The intended meaning of the sentence is "They all fell to the ground, their heads touching the ground reverentially".

The sentence is - "They all fell to the ground, their heads (in line with or parallel to) the ground.

I want to say something to the effect that their heads were touching the ground in such a way that it felt as if the face were an extension of the ground.

4 Answers 4



verb (used with object), prostrated, prostrating.

  1. to cast (oneself) face down on the ground in humility, submission, or adoration.
  2. to lay flat, as on the ground.
  3. to throw down level with the ground.


  • It was not your answer but rather the word in the definition of your answer which I was looking for. "Level" - They all fell to the ground, their heads level with it... Still marking as answer
    – user96551
    Nov 3, 2015 at 20:10

In a context of expressing reverence it possible to say to fall on your face or to fall facedown. Some examples from the Bible:

And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him...

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.

You can also consider to fall flat on your face.

to fall so that you are lying on your chest on the ground


But note that to fall flat on one's/something's face or simply to fall flat can be also used figuratively meaning failure:

  1. to fail completely, especially in an embarrassing way

This scheme will fall flat on its face unless the residents get behind it.


  • 1
    Thanks but this has a negative connotation implying that either someone pushed them or clumsiness...I want to show that the action was willingly done.
    – user96551
    Oct 23, 2015 at 5:18
  • No, no pushing or clumsiness implied. Please see my updated answer.
    – A.P.
    Oct 23, 2015 at 5:33
  • "fall" often implies accidental rather than intentional, hence using a term like kowtow, which carries in it the intentionalilty of the act, is better than any usage of "fell". Oct 23, 2015 at 12:35
  • @BrianHitchcock I guess context is king. In the Bible passages above there's no ambiguity whatsoever. But I'm not arguing that fall on one's face is the best option every time. Merely an option. Personally, I like prostrate. Then again, fall on one's face is the simplest, and even children would easily understand it. In that respect I'd argue it's the best choice.
    – A.P.
    Oct 23, 2015 at 12:40

I'll suggest 'to kowtow'. The noun sense is

The Chinese custom of touching the ground with the forehead in the act of prostrating oneself, as an expression of extreme respect, submission, or worship.

[From "kow-tow | kotow, n.". OED Online. September 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/104417 (accessed October 23, 2015).]

But the verb probably works better in your example sentence:

a. intr. To perform the kow-tow. Also transf.

[From "kow-tow | kotow, v.". OED Online. September 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/104418 (accessed October 23, 2015).]


They all fell to the ground, kowtowing.

If, however, you want to use the noun 'kowtow', this works:

They all fell to the ground, performing the kowtow.

Whether either form will work depends on the context. Use of this borrowing from Chinese may be uncomfortable in some contexts.


They prostrated themselves [in unison], becoming [as it were] one with the ground.

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