AskDefine | Define coward

Dictionary Definition



1 a person who shows fear or timidity
2 English dramatist and actor and composer noted for his witty and sophisticated comedies (1899-1973) [syn: Noel Coward, Sir Noel Pierce Coward]

User Contributed Dictionary



From etyl fro coart, cuard ( > French couard), from coe (from etyl la cauda) + -ard. The reference seems to be to an animal "turning tail", or having its tail between its legs.




  1. A person who lacks courage.

Derived terms

See also


a person who lacks courage

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
coward in German: Feigheit
coward in French: Délit de lâcheté
coward in Portuguese: Covardia
coward in Russian: Трусость

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Milquetoast, Scaramouch, baby, big baby, caitiff, chicken, chicken liver, craven, dastard, fraid-cat, fraidy-cat, funk, funker, gutless, invertebrate, jellyfish, lily liver, lily-livered, milksop, mouse, poltroon, poltroonish, pusillanimous, quitter, recreant, scaredy-cat, sissy, spunkless, unmanly, weak sister, weakling, white feather, white liver
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