I got a facial at the beauty salon.

Any dictionary I've checked confirms that facial can be a noun. For example, my Shorter Oxford calls it "A beauty treatment for the face" and dates it to the early 20th century.

What is the origin of facial as a noun? Did it come from a phrase in which it appeared as an adjective? Did something like "She got a facial treatment at the beauty salon" simply evolve to drop the noun?

If so, what was the original phrase? And when did the adjective become the noun? Who dropped the (other) noun - was it the professionals who provided the "facial treatments" (or "facial whatevers")?


Etymonline suggests that the noun form was first noted in 1914:

c.1600, "face to face," from Fr. facial, from M.L. facialis "of the face," from facies (see face (n.)). Meaning "of the face" is from 1818. The noun meaning "beauty treatment for the face" is from 1914, American English.

While it's difficult to pinpoint the exact phrase that it abbreviates, looking at probable candidates such as facial treatment, facial pack, facial cleaning, facial cleansing, and facial massage, suggests that facial massage was the most likely. The following instances all antedate the 1914 suggested in etymonline:

From Beauty, Its Attainment and Preservation (1892):

Aside from its physically remedial effects, it has also been recently adopted as a beautifier, and facial massage is one of the expedients now resorted to by the fashionable woman in her endeavor to circumvent old Time by as far as possible ...

From The Art of Massage: A Practical Manual for the Student, the Nurse and the Practitioner by John Harvey Kellogg1 (1895):

Massage for Wrinkles — Facial massage may be made useful in removing wrinkles.

I have no idea who decided to abbreviate facial massage to facial. But the probability of it having been those involved in the industry is high.

1 Yes, the very same one

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.