cow·​ard·​ice ˈkau̇(-ə)r-dəs How to pronounce cowardice (audio)
 dialectal  -(ˌ)dīs
: lack of courage or firmness of purpose
soldiers accused of cowardice

Example Sentences

the cowardice shown by political leaders who were willing to give the Nazis whatever they wanted
Recent Examples on the Web This will go down as one of the great acts of cowardice in the recent history of sports. Mike Freeman, USA TODAY, 20 Jan. 2023 To point this out is not to condemn them on the grounds of cowardice. Gideon Lewis-kraus, The New Yorker, 1 Dec. 2022 The rhetoric of diversity exposes the cowardice and denial of this fundamental ideal of human decency. WSJ, 21 Nov. 2022 It’s not merely the emerging timelines that point to the inexcusable cowardice of local law enforcement at the scene, but the ever-growing toll of firearm deaths across the country. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 1 June 2022 That hate-enabling cowardice finds its purest form in aspiring House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Globe Columnist,, 3 Dec. 2022 Covid-19 weakened America’s political immune system, leaving the country vulnerable to confusion, panic, unease and cowardice. Justin Hart, WSJ, 16 Nov. 2022 Though a generally emollient figure, Mr. Hunt criticized Mr. Johnson in that campaign, accusing him of cowardice for avoiding media scrutiny. Stephen Castle, New York Times, 15 Oct. 2022 Zelensky denounced the longer-range strikes as an act of cowardice following the messy retreat of Russian soldiers from the northeast Kharkiv region. Louisa Loveluck, Washington Post, 30 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cowardice.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Middle English cowardise, from Anglo-French coardise, from cuard — see coward

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cowardice was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near cowardice

Cite this Entry

“Cowardice.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


cow·​ard·​ice ˈkau̇(-ə)rd-əs How to pronounce cowardice (audio)
: lack of courage to face danger : shameful fear

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