How would you describe a facepalm in a more formal sense?

For example, he rubbed his head with his hand. Or, he rubbed his temples. Basically, my character here is really annoyed at the stupidity of another and so he's sighing and 'facepalming'. Just something better than 'he facepalmed'.

  • 1
    Adding a sigh to a number of hand/head motions could illustrate annoyance.
    – Tasch
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 17:54
  • google.com/…
    – rolfedh
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 18:32
  • Face-palm is an accepted word with a regular dictionary definition. Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 0:49
  • I don't understand the close votes. Isn't asking how to describe a face palm (without using the term) on topic here?
    – Llewellyn
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 15:49
  • 1
    In my opinion, both rubbing "his head" and "his temples" conjure up images that have nothing to do with a facepalm. (To me, the first refers to someone rubbing the top of the head, the second to someone who has a headache.)
    – Llewellyn
    Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 15:52

3 Answers 3


A few options:

Bob slammed his hand upwards, almost hurting himself. "Why would you say that Jim?"

Bob rolled his eyes and leaned forward into his hand. "Honestly Jim. Could you have been more stupid?"

Similar to what @Derek Lu said: Bob sighed, and rubbed his forehead, thinking of all the reasons of why Jim'sidea wouldn't work.

In dismay Bob brought his hand onto his face. Sighing loudly he turned to Jim - "Shut up. That's really stupid"

In summary:

Say: [Character Name][verb to do with hitting or touching] his face {noise or speech.}

  • 1
    '"Damn it, Jim," Bob exclaimed as he smacked his forhead with his free hand.' Because using Jim as a character and not shouting "Damn it, Jim" is not allowed!
    – hszmv
    Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 17:01

It would be very important to cover the mood / feeling of the person who's doing the facepalm, more than the description of the act itself.

With due respect, some of the descriptions of provided in the previous answers look like the person is actually hurting himself / herself.

So it's quite important to define the mood, the feelings, the frustration of the person doing the act first before actually defining it. This gives more weight to the person's reaction.

For example:

"After hearing the same question posed to him for the umpteenth time, a deep guttural sigh, conveying intense pain, escaped Bob's lips as he extended the palm of his right hand and covered his bent face with it, fingers tightly clasping the skin. It was a classic 'Why do I have to deal with these type of people?' pose."


I came up with this: [character name] sighed, and rubbed his [temple/forehead], thinking of all the reasons of why his idea wouldn't work.

You can change that too many different variations.

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