“Of course, you've looked death in the face before, haven't you?” said Rita Skeeter, watching him closely. “How would you say that's affected you?”

I guess it could be a figure of speech as if looked somebody in the face perhaps. Maybe, Rita was saying Harry had been face-to-face with death? What does it exactly mean?

2 Answers 2


To look someone in the face means to look directly at their face at relatively close range. You see them clearly, standing face to face. When you have looked someone in the face, you have had a "close encounter" with them.

Death is often personified.

If you have had a close encounter with Death, you've been in a life-threatening situation, one in which you could have lost your life. You were in mortal peril. You have had a "close call" with death.


As Tᴚoɯɐuo says, to "look [someone/something] in the face" is a figurative device implying "to have intimate and direct contact with". However I can't recall seeing it used (figuratively) for anything other than perilous situations, for example:

He looked death in the face

He looked fear in the face

He looked danger in the face

And so on, although I would say "death" is by far the most popular usage. Another variation:

When you are on the front lines, you must learn to look into the face of death and never blink.

"Looked death in the face" doesn't only mean that the person has been in mortal peril. In the Harry Potter books, only those who have witnessed someone else die ("looked death in the face"), are able to see Thestrals, the skeletal, horse-like, flying creatures which pull the carts that take the students from the train station to the school.

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