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[pyoo-suh-lan-uh-muh s] /ˌpyu səˈlæn ə məs/
lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid.
proceeding from or indicating a cowardly spirit.
Origin of pusillanimous
1580-90; < Late Latin pusillanimis petty-spirited, equivalent to Latin pusill(us) very small, petty + -anim(is) -spirited, -minded (anim(us) spirit + -is adj. suffix); see -ous
Related forms
pusillanimously, adverb
1. timorous, fearful, frightened. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pusillanimous
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is a pusillanimous desertion of our work to gaze after our neighbors.

    Essays, First Series Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Catharine was glad to have the pusillanimous Charles out of the way.

    Henry IV, Makers of History John S. C. Abbott
  • A blind faith is only one remove from a pusillanimous skepticism.

    Christianity and Greek Philosophy Benjamin Franklin Cocker
  • He was of a mean appearance, and, like his father, pusillanimous to a degree.

    The Romany Rye George Borrow
  • The senators seemed to take a pleasure in pusillanimous adulation.

    Darkness and Dawn Frederic W. Farrar
  • To remain where he was was certain death, and a shameful, pusillanimous death to boot.

    Patraas R. H. Busk
  • It would have been pusillanimous, cowardly, and unworthy the Governor of the State.

  • It was, to their minds, an anticlimax, a pusillanimous surrender.

  • Why, confound your pusillanimous souls, what do you mean by talking to me in that fashion?

    Gold Stewart White
British Dictionary definitions for pusillanimous


characterized by a lack of courage or determination
Derived Forms
pusillanimity (ˌpjuːsɪləˈnɪmɪtɪ) noun
pusillanimously, adverb
Word Origin
C16: from Late Latin pusillanimis from Latin pusillus weak +animus courage
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 pusillanimous

early 15c., from Late Latin pusillanimis "having little courage" (used in Church Latin to translate Greek oligopsychos "small-souled"), from Latin pusillis "very weak, little" (diminutive of pullus "young animal;" see foal (n.)) + animus "spirit, courage" (see animus). Related: Pusillanimously; pusillanimousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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