Here are several words that can be used to describe someone's face, facial expression, or attitude along with their definitions from dictionary.goo.ne.jp, which are all related to the word 引き締まった。

  • 引き締まる - たるみがなくなり、固く締まる
  • [凛]{りん} - 態度・容姿・声などが、きびしくひきしまっているさま。
  • [凜凜]{りり}しい - きりっとひきしまっている。
  • きりっと - きちんとしてゆるみのないさま。
  • [颯爽]{さっそう} - 人の姿や態度・行動がきりっとして、見る人にさわやかな印象を与えるさま。

I can understand the physical meaning, but the idea seems to be used in a more figurative way when describing a person's face, expression, or attitude. Can someone explain the nuance of 引き締まった in this context? For example, does it have a positive or negative meaning? Is it more often used to describe a transient characteristic or someone's essence?

  • 1
    This might help out a bit: dictionary.goo.ne.jp/je/62847/meaning/m0u – strawberry jam Apr 4 '16 at 19:15
  • Thanks for the link. I'm interested in the usage with the definition of "a person with firm features". I'm not quite sure what firm features would mean in English. I hope to get an understanding of what the nuances are in Japanese phrase that they are trying to translate here with "firm". Does it just literally mean "without wrinkles", or is there something figurative going on in the Japanese? – Yeti Apr 4 '16 at 19:23
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    Well, if you google that phrase you will see a lot of "before/after" weight loss images where the websites describe how the faces of the guys that lost weight look better, which leads me to think it literally means "firm facial features". I don't know for sure though. – strawberry jam Apr 4 '16 at 20:18

It's not so figurative, but yes it carries some connotations over the physical description. The word 引き締まる (lit. "be fastened tight") generally implies commendable evaluation with the impression of lean and streamlined feeling, self-discipline, sense of duty etc. as opposed to being just strained nervously.

Of course, as @strawberryjam said in the comment, it can also mean purely physical (about your body) things, that is you have little excess flesh.

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