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But behind the locked door at the top of the house, the picture of Dorian Gray grew older every year.

The terrible face showed the dark secrets of his life. The heavy mouth, the yellow skin, the cruel eyes – these told the real story. Again and again, Dorian Gray went secretly to the room and looked first at the ugly and terrible face in the picture, then at the beautiful young face that laughed back at him from the mirror.

What does this phrase mean? "heavy mouth"

This excerpt comes from "The Picture of Dorian Gray", written by Oscar Wilde.

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4 Answers 4

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As others have said, it's not a standard phrase. However, it's important to point out how the word heavy can be used to describe things other than weight and mass. Couples can engage in heavy conversations; students can trudge through heavy reading passages. We can be advised not to eat a heavy meal before a long swim.

Your passage doesn't even tell us what is being described – something you should be more careful about in future questions. However, I can venture guess as to what the expression might mean, based on Definition 6 in Macmillan, which says:

heavy (adj.) used about things that look ugly because they are big
heavy features (=large mouth, eyes, and nose) : He was a tall dark man, with heavy features.

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  • And then there's Back to the Future - I'm pretty sure that, here, it means something along the lines of "difficult to deal with".
    – Catija
    Aug 27, 2015 at 19:28
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Heavy mouth doesn't "mean" anything to me other than a mouth that is heavy. (It isn't a stock phrase, at least not one that I know.)

That isn't to say it isn't effective language. What would a face look like if the mouth were extremely heavy? I imagine a tired, serious expression, with the lips rarely lifting up or even moving, never smiling fully.

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As @Adam said, it isn't really a stock phrase, it's just a description. I personally (without more context) would think of a monster of some sort, with lots of fat around the mouth area dragging it down. A mouth that doesn't often see the grace of a smile because somehow it is too much effort.

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Like in many uses of English terms, “heavy” as an adjective or adverb can have multiple meanings. In the Hebrew bible (Exodus 4:10), Moses says “I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue”. This has been translated as being that he stuttered when speaking. However, if you think about it, the the 2 phrases could actually mean two different concepts. “Heavy of tongue” could mean that he stuttered because he struggled to say the words, but “heavy of mouth” could mean he said little because of the stuttering. If you also look up “light of mouth” you will find that it’s meaning is related to people who tell secrets easily. Even in the above quote it could still relate to not “saying much” due to the “dark secrets of his life” the portrait would not reveal.

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