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  1. a wretched coward; craven.
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  1. marked by utter cowardice.
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Origin of poltroon

1520–30; earlier pultrowne, pultron, poultroone < Middle French poultron < Old Italian poltrone idler, coward, derivative of poltro foal < Vulgar Latin *pulliter, derivative of Latin pullus young animal; see foal
Related formspol·troon·er·y, nounpol·troon·ish, adjectivepol·troon·ish·ly, adverb


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Examples from the Web for poltroon

Historical Examples

  • He was certainly no poltroon, but he felt that she was right.

    Nana, The Miller's Daughter, Captain Burle, Death of Olivier Becaille

    Emile Zola

  • "I am not a poltroon though," he said to himself as he finished dressing.

    Therese Raquin

    Emile Zola

  • He had slipped away like the poltroon that he was, leaving Peter to his fate.

    The Vagrant Duke

    George Gibbs

  • This is the charge which will always make the poltroon squirm.

  • If it was that poltroon, Ferdinand, I would have him thrown out by my lackeys.

British Dictionary definitions for poltroon


  1. an abject or contemptible coward
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  1. a rare word for cowardly
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Word Origin

C16: from Old French poultron, from Old Italian poltrone lazy good-for-nothing, apparently from poltrīre to lie indolently in bed, from poltro bed
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 poltroon


"A coward; a nidgit; a scoundrel" [Johnson, who spells it poltron], 1520s, from Middle French poultron "rascal, coward" (16c., Modern French poltron), from Italian poltrone "lazy fellow, coward," apparently from *poltro "couch, bed" (cf. Milanese polter, Venetian poltrona "couch"), perhaps from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German polstar "pillow;" see bolster (n.)). Cf. also -oon.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper