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Janus-faced is an interesting word with its roots in Ancient Rome. It is a hyphenated compound word, which is a term made up of two or more words that when used together have a different meaning than the literal interpretation of the separate words. We will look at the meaning of Janus-faced, where the word came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Janus-faced means possessing two different natures or characters, deceitful, two-faced or insincere. However, note that the first definition of the term is of two characters, which is not a negative attribute but simply a dichotomy. Janus-faced is primarily a British English word. Janus was a god in Ancient Rome, he was the patron of doorways, transitions, beginnings and endings. He was depicted as having two faces, symbolizing his ability to simultaneously look to the future and to the past. The name Janus came from the Latin word ianua, which means an entrance gate. The month of January is named for Janus. Note that the term Janus-faced is capitalized, as Janus is a proper name.


Tennant’s voice – satanic, subversive, sly, unclouded – was unique in British fiction: a satirist in the Swiftian vein, she depicted a Janus-faced nation in a state of decay. (The Guardian)

It is because to date there are still very few who have been able to discern the real you: Janus-faced with the kindly, friendly, convivial face of Muthamaki masking your real face; the face of kamwana. (The Star)

First presented Thursday night at Symphony Center, his attractive, Janus-faced program scaled the orchestra to 18th century proportions, effectively demonstrating how the musical manners of an earlier era were revived by composers some 200 years later. (The Chicago Tribune)