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Word for Wednesday: Coward

The Spellzone dictionary defines ‘coward’ as ‘a person who shows fear or timidity’. 

Here is the word ‘coward’ used in some example sentences:

  • Instead of defending what was right, the politician behaved in a cowardly manner.
  • She accused her friend of being a coward for not wanting to ride on the rollercoaster. 

In the mid-thirteenth century, the accusation was saved for those with an unwillingness to face peril or injury. It comes from the Anglo-French ‘couard’, from the Old French ‘coart’. 

The word is probably a metaphorical reflection of an animal – ‘coart’ comes from the Italian ‘coa’ meaning ‘tail’ from the Latin ‘coda’. You can still see this connection in the expression ‘with one’s tail between one’s legs’ which describes the experience of shame and humiliation. Interestingly, the word ‘cower’, which describes the action of crouching in fear, has no connection to the word ‘coward’. ‘Cower’ has been used in English since the early-fourteenth century and probably comes from the Middle Low German ‘kuren’ meaning ‘lie in wait’.

26 Jun 2019
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Teacher, High School, UK