save face, to
To try to regain favorable standing after something embarrassing has happened. I was late to the meeting but tried to save face by blaming an urgent call. There's no way for Audrey to save face now that the entire company knows she embezzled money.
Avoid humiliation or embarrassment, preserve dignity, as in Rather than fire him outright, they let him save face by accepting his resignation. The phrase, which uses face in the sense of "outward appearances," is modeled on the antonym lose face. [Late 1800s]
COMMON If you save face, you do something so that people continue to respect you and your reputation is not damaged. Most children have a need to save face in front of their friends. Last Wednesday Poland somehow allowed the United States to take a three-goal lead before slightly saving face by scoring two themselves. Note: You can also talk about face-saving or a face-saving action. There have been no negotiations, no compromises and no attempts at face-saving. Officials are looking for a face-saving way to back down. Note: An action or excuse which enables someone to save face can be called a face-saver. The hope is that this exchange of prisoners will give the kidnappers the face-saver they need to release the hostages. Compare with lose face. Note: This comes from a Chinese expression which refers to keeping a calm expression and managing to avoid the disgrace of revealing one's emotions.
save faceretain respect; avoid humiliation.
1994 Thomas Boswell Cracking Show And Rose got to save face, at least in his own eyes, with one last brassy news conference.
save (somebody’s) ˈfacedo something in order to keep the respect of other people: The announcement was an attempt by the government to save face. OPPOSITE: lose face ▶ ˈface-saving adj.: face-saving measures
save face, to
To avoid embarrassment; to redeem one’s dignity. The face here means outward appearances, the face that one presents to the world. The concept itself is often regarded as quintessentially Asian but actually is far more widespread, and perhaps it always has been. A typical example of saving face might be to resign before one is fired. The term has been around since about 1900. W. Somerset Maugham used it in his first important novel, Of Human Bondage (1915): “To save his face he began making suggestions for altering it.”
See also: save