cow·​ard ˈkau̇(-ə)rd How to pronounce coward (audio)
: one who shows disgraceful fear or timidity
a coward who deserted his troops
coward adjective

Examples of coward in a Sentence

a proven coward who had deserted his troops the soldiers who ran as soon as the first shots were fired were branded as cowards
Recent Examples on the Web They’re called cowards for covering their faces with masks and goggles. Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times, 3 May 2024 The science and media outlets that try to warn us of the dangers are tricksters, after all, and isn’t fear the coward’s way? Lydia Millet, TIME, 2 Apr. 2024 In fact, Southerners had long mocked Northerners as cowards. Jon Grinspan, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 Apr. 2024 The wounds of America’s last war remain open, and Shriver is too much of a coward to risk his political career for her. Elliot Ackerman, WIRED, 9 Feb. 2024 Like what, low-crawling out of town like a bunch of sniveling cowards? Nick Canepa, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Feb. 2024 The cowards cut the statue off at the ankles, leaving nothing but two shoes on a base the shape of home plate. Greg Cote, Miami Herald, 31 Jan. 2024 Anything less will confirm Joe Biden as a coward unworthy of being commander-in-chief. Greg Norman, Fox News, 29 Jan. 2024 The families of some of the Uvalde victims have blasted police as cowards and demanded resignations. Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports,, 19 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'coward.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Anglo-French cuard, from cue, coe tail, from Latin cauda

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of coward was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near coward

Cite this Entry

“Coward.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


cow·​ard ˈkau̇(-ə)rd How to pronounce coward (audio)
: one who shows shameful fear or timidity
coward adjective

Middle English coward "coward," from early French cuard "coward," from cue, coe "tail," from Latin cauda "tail" — related to coda, cue entry 2, queue see Word History at queue

Word Origin
A frightened animal may put its tail between its hind legs, and if it is very frightened it may run away. In an animal like the hare, the white flash of the fleeing tail is especially obvious. This action gives us the phrase turn tail, meaning "to run away, flee." But even tailless animals like people can turn tail and run when frightened. It is in the "tail end" of an army that you might expect to find the cowards. We do not know whether the word coward developed from the idea of an animal's tail or an army's, but we do know the word comes from an early French word that meant "tail."

Biographical Definition


biographical name

Cow·​ard ˈkau̇(-ə)rd How to pronounce Coward (audio)
Sir Noël Peirce 1899–1973 English actor and dramatist

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