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[kou-erd] /ˈkaʊ ərd/
a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person.
lacking courage; very fearful or timid.
proceeding from or expressive of fear or timidity:
a coward cry.
Origin of coward
1175-1225; Middle English < Old French couard-, couart cowardly, equivalent to coue tail (< Latin cauda) + -art -ard
1. craven, poltroon, dastard, recreant, milksop.


[kou-erd] /ˈkaʊ ərd/
Noel, 1899–1973, English playwright, author, actor, and composer. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for coward
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • At any rate, I won't be coward enough to try to hide it from her.

    Brave and Bold Horatio Alger
  • If the first thing happened, you'd have been a coward the rest of your life.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • The coward would not have the courage to contradict her, but he would know if he were lying!

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • "Because I was a coward," answered Corney, speaking the truth with courage.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • And yet it was a coward's blow, and one to stir the blood and loose the tongue of the most peaceful.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
British Dictionary definitions for coward


a person who shrinks from or avoids danger, pain, or difficulty
Word Origin
C13: from Old French cuard, from coue tail, from Latin cauda; perhaps suggestive of a frightened animal with its tail between its legs


Sir Noël (Pierce). 1899–1973, English dramatist, actor, and composer, noted for his sophisticated comedies, which include Private Lives (1930) and Blithe Spirit (1941)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for coward

mid-13c., from Old French coart "coward" (no longer the usual word in French, which has now in this sense poltron, from Italian, and lâche), from coe "tail," from Latin coda, popular dialect variant of cauda "tail," of uncertain origin + -ard, an agent noun suffix denoting one that carries on some action or possesses some quality, with derogatory connotation (see -ard).

The word probably reflects an animal metaphoric sense still found in expressions like turning tail and tail between legs. Coart was the name of the hare in Old French versions of "Reynard the Fox." Italian codardo, Spanish cobarde are from French.

The identification of coward & bully has gone so far in the popular consciousness that persons & acts in which no trace of fear is to be found are often called coward(ly) merely because advantage has been taken of superior strength or position .... [Fowler]
As a surname (attested from 1255) it represents Old English cuhyrde "cow-herd." Farmer has coward's castle "a pulpit," "Because a clergyman may deliver himself therefrom without fear of contradiction or argument."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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