AskDefine | Define cowardly

Dictionary Definition

cowardly adj : lacking courage; ignobly timid and faint-hearted; "cowardly dogs, ye will not aid me then"- P.B.Shelley [syn: fearful] [ant: brave]

User Contributed Dictionary



From coward + -ly.


  • a UK /ˈkaʊədli/


  1. In the manner of a coward.
    • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Folio Society 2006, vol. 1 p. 48:
      I love to follow them, but not so cowardly, as my life remaine thereby in subjection.


  1. Showing cowardice. Lacking in courage, unacceptably fearful, usually meant with some implication of a lack of consideration for others.

Related terms


showing cowardice
  • Czech: zbabělý
  • Dutch: laf
  • German: feige
  • Hungarian: gyáva
  • Old English: earg

Extensive Definition

Coward redirects here. For other meanings including as a surname, see coward (disambiguation).
Cowardice (also called nervelessness) is a vice that is conventionally viewed as the corruption of prudence, to thwart all courage or bravery. Cowardice may be considered to be prudence that does not take consequences to their furthest extent.


According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word "coward" comes from an Old French word coart (modern French is couard), a combination of the word for "tail" and an agent noun suffix. It would therefore have meant "one with a tail" — perhaps one in the habit of turning it, or it may be derived from the dog's habit of putting its tail between its legs when it is afraid. Another more clearly related word, in old French, that can be related to coward is "couard" which literally means coward and was frequently used by French knights in battle. It is therefore possible that the English language was enriched in such manner through military contacts with the French, or with the French-influenced Normans that invaded England in 1066.
The English surname Coward (as in Noel Coward), however, has the same origin and meaning as the word "cowherd".

Other meanings

"Cowardice" is also a post rock band formed by members of Final Coil in 2008. Their only release to date was free on the internet at
cowardly in German: Feigheit
cowardly in French: Délit de lâcheté
cowardly in Portuguese: Covardia
cowardly in Russian: Трусость

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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