cowardly; contemptibly timid; pusillanimous.


a coward.

verb (used with object)

to make cowardly.


    cry craven, to yield; capitulate; give up.

Origin of craven

1175–1225; Middle English cravant, cravaunde defeated < Old French craventé, past participle of cravanter to crush, overwhelm (< Vulgar Latin *crepantāre), influenced by Middle English creaunt defeated (see recreant)
Related formscra·ven·ly, adverbcra·ven·ness, nounun·cra·ven, adjective

Synonyms for craven Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for craven

Contemporary Examples of craven

Historical Examples of craven

  • And with the detective went a man whose gait was slinking, craven.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Hobbs had seemed more of the craven type which Stryker graced so conspicuously.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • "Craven Street, please," said the girl, and added a house number.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • In his heart he was ashamed of his fears; in his heart he knew himself for a craven.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • Swounds, but an empty stomach is a craven comrade in a desperate enterprise.

    The Tavern Knight

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for craven



cowardly; mean-spirited


a coward
Derived Formscravenly, adverbcravenness, noun

Word Origin for craven

C13 cravant, probably from Old French crevant bursting, from crever to burst, die, from Latin crepāre to burst, crack
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

Word Origin and History for craven

early 13c., cravant, perhaps from Old French crevante "defeated," past participle of cravanter "to strike down, to fall down," from Latin crepare "to crack, creak." Sense affected by crave and moved from "defeated" to "cowardly" (c.1400) perhaps via intermediary sense of "confess oneself defeated." Related: Cravenly; cravenness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper