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mask, cover or partial cover for the face or head used as a disguise or protection. Masks have been worn from time immemorial throughout the world. They are used by primitive peoples chiefly to impersonate supernatural beings or animals in religious and magical ceremonies. Particularly notable are the masks of W and central Africa; the wooden masks of the Native Americans of NW North America, which sometimes represented totemic animals; the False Face Society of the Iroquois, whose masked dancers were thought to ward off evil spirits; and the gold and turquoise-mosaic masks of Aztec warriors and priests. Masks have always been especially important in drama, and their use has been continued into modern times. They are an integral part of Japanese drama, especially of the No plays, and of Chinese temple dramas (see Asian drama). The many masks used in ancient Greek drama represented the character being portrayed by the actor and were constructed to portray a fixed emotion such as grief or rage. Greek masks had metallic mouthpieces that enhanced the resonance of an actor's voice. The use of masks was preserved in the Roman theater, passed into the early Italian theater, and was a characteristic device of the commedia dell'arte. The mask was used in the miracle dramas of the Middle Ages and appeared in the 20th cent. in the works of the German expressionist playwrights and in Eugene O'Neill's plays The Great God Brown and Lazarus Laughed. The making of death masks (reproduction of the face of a dead person) is an ancient practice. Roman death masks were made of wax, and Egyptian death masks of thin gold plate. The modern method first applies oil or grease to the face and next a coat of plaster of paris, which is permitted to harden and is then removed. This procedure results in a mold that is used to cast the mask. Although a similar process was used for life masks, it often proved dangerous to the sitter and unsatisfactory in results. Protective masks include those used by medieval horsemen, gas masks, surgeon's masks, and masks used in certain athletic events. See African art; North American Native art; masque.


See R. Sieber, Masks as Agents of Social Control (1962); J. Gregor, Masks of the World (1937, repr. 1968); A. Lommel, Masks (tr. 1972), W. Sorrell, The Other Face (1974).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


A corbel, the shadow of which bears a close resemblance to that of a human face. It was a favorite ornament under the parapet of a chancel.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an adornment in the form of a human face or animal head. Masks are usually placed on keystones, door and window frames, fountains (with a hole through which the water can flow), furniture, and vessels.



(1) A special covering with an image (such as a human or animal face, or the head of a mythological being), worn over a person’s face. Masks are made from various materials. Masks were first used in the remote past; they were used in hunting and in ceremonies. Later, masks came to be used in various kinds of theatrical presentations—including classical drama, the Indonesian theater, and the Italian commedia dell’arte—as part of the actor’s makeup.

(2) A band of cloth or other material with openings cut out for the eyes and worn over the upper part of the face by participants in carnivals and masquerades.

(3) A cast made of plaster or other material, which bears the imprint of the face of a dead person; a death mask.

(4) In medicine, a device, or part of an apparatus, placed over the face of a patient for the administration of anesthesia by the inhalation of liquid or gaseous narcotic substances.

(5) In cosmetics, one of the means of healing or caring for facial skin.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a mask?

Wearing a mask in a dream can suggest presenting a false persona to others to protect against ridicule and shame.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(computer science)
A pattern of characters used to control the retention or elimination of portions of another pattern of characters. Also known as extractor.
(design engineering)
A frame used in front of a television picture tube to conceal the rounded edges of the screen.
A thin sheet of metal or other material containing an open pattern, used to shield selected portions of a semiconductor or other surface during a deposition process.
A protective covering for the face or head in the form of a wire screen, a metal shield, or a respirator.
(graphic arts)
In color separation photography, an intermediate negative or positive that is used to correct color.
In offset lithography, opaque material that protectively covers open or selected areas of a printing plate during the exposure process.
A protective device in thermal spraying against blasting or coating effects which are reflected from the substrate surface.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

mascaron, mask

The representation of a face, a human or partly human head, more or less caricatured, used as an architectural ornament.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a disguise; hence, symbol of deception. [Art: Hall, 204]
See: Deceit
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, mask
1. a dramatic entertainment of the 16th to 17th centuries in England, consisting of pantomime, dancing, dialogue, and song, often performed at court
2. the words and music written for a masque
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(1) A pattern used to transfer a design onto an object. See photomask.

(2) A pattern of bits used to accept or reject bit patterns in another set of data. For example, the Boolean AND operation can be used to match a mask of 0s and 1s with a string of data bits. When a 1 occurs in both the mask and the data, the resulting bit will contain a 1 in that position.

Hardware interrupts are often enabled and disabled in this manner with each interrupt assigned a bit position in a mask register.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.


Masks may represent our persona and how we appear to others, the roles that we play in life such as parent, student, or worker. On the other hand, masks can be a symbol of pretentiousness. If you are wearing a mask, look inside and check if you are being sincere in your presentations, or if you are hiding something and pretending to be something you are not. If other people are wearing masks, it suggests that you may be concerned about their genuineness.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.