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 cravenness

Historical Examples of cravenness

  • She had a fine spirit; it did not know defeat or cravenness.

    Double Harness

    Anthony Hope

  • They stood ready to obey his slightest wish––not with cravenness, but with quick reversion to the faith of their ancestors.

    The Web of the Golden Spider

    Frederick Orin Bartlett

  • It is very frequently set down as pusillanimity and cravenness of spirit.

  • The boy was the bear-hunter in miniature, strong and hearty, and a stranger to all cravenness.

British Dictionary definitions for cravenness



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 cravenness



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