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[kou-erd-lee] /ˈkaʊ ərd li/
lacking courage; contemptibly timid.
characteristic of or befitting a coward; despicably mean, covert, or unprincipled:
a cowardly attack on a weak, defenseless man.
like a coward.
Origin of cowardly
1275-1325; Middle English (adv.); see coward, -ly
Related forms
cowardliness, noun
1. craven, poltroon, dastardly, pusillanimous, fainthearted, white-livered, lily-livered, chicken-hearted, fearful, afraid, scared.
1. brave.
Synonym Study
1.Cowardly, timid, timorous refer to a lack of courage or self-confidence. Cowardly means weakly or basely fearful in the presence of danger: The cowardly wretch deserted his comrades in battle. Timid means lacking in boldness or self-confidence even when there is no danger present: a timid person who stood in the way of his own advancement. Timorous suggests a timidity based on an exaggeration of dangers or on an imaginary creation of dangers: timorous as a mouse. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for cowardliness
Historical Examples
  • I tell you, this cowardliness enrages me; I cannot forgive it.

    Doctor Pascal Emile Zola
  • Should he shrink from the duties of life, into the cowardliness of death?

    Mary Barton

    Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • To my mind, these questions only bespeak our weakness and our cowardliness.

    A Guide to Health Mahatma Gandhi
  • The cowardliness of the Edinburgh is more than the abuse of the Quarterly.

  • It is not cowardliness and gluttony that have made me what I am.

    Les Misrables Victor Hugo
  • I felt as if I should have tumbled down with sheer fright and cowardliness.

    Robbery Under Arms Thomas Alexander Browne, AKA Rolf Boldrewood
  • You and I may call that cowardliness, but the party calls it honour and applauds every time.

    The Voice of the People Ellen Glasgow
  • And though the meanness and cowardliness were apparent, Louis looked at little else than the extreme agony of the suppliant.

    Louis' School Days E. J. May
  • At the thought his past sin and his present disgrace appeared to him not only as crime but as cowardliness.

    The Ancient Law Ellen Glasgow
  • He had felt this cowardliness and was continually trying to distort it into more self-ennobling emotions.

    Gargoyles Ben Hecht
British Dictionary definitions for cowardliness


of or characteristic of a coward; lacking courage
Derived Forms
cowardliness, noun
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 cowardliness



1550s, from coward + -ly (1). The adverb (late 14c.) is much older than the adjective:

Yit had I levir do what I may Than here to dye thus cowerdelye ["Le Morte d'Arthur," c.1450]
An Old English word for "cowardly" was earg, which also meant "slothful." Related: Cowardliness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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