noun: 1. the gape of a bird's mouth 2a. the mouth orifice *b. a gaping grin or grimace
*"Alex's face twisted with a rictus of pain as he tried to put weight on his sprained ankle."
Did you know..?
When 'rictus' was first used in English in the early 19th century, it referred to the hole formed by the mouth of a bird. Later it was applied to the mouths of other animals, including humans. In Latin, rictus means 'an open mouth'; it comes from the verb ringi, which means 'to open the mouth'.
In English, 'rictus' eventually acquired a sense referring to the expression of someone grinning widely, as in Lawrence Durrell's 1957 novel Justine: "This ghastly rictus gouged out in his taut cheeks."
Although 'rictus' might be used to describe the mouth of a laughing or smiling person, it is not related to 'risible', a word associated with laughter. Rather, 'risible' descends from Latin ridēre, which means 'to laugh'.