cow·​ard·​ly | \ ˈkau̇(-ə)rd-lē How to pronounce cowardly (audio) \

Definition of cowardly

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: in a cowardly manner



Definition of cowardly (Entry 2 of 2)

: being, resembling, or befitting a coward a cowardly retreat

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Other Words from cowardly


cowardliness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for cowardly


cowardly, pusillanimous, craven, dastardly mean having or showing a lack of courage. cowardly implies a weak or ignoble lack of courage. a cowardly failure to stand up for principle pusillanimous suggests a contemptible lack of courage. the pusillanimous fear of a future full of possibility craven suggests extreme defeatism and complete lack of resistance. secretly despised her own craven yes-men dastardly often implies behavior that is both cowardly and treacherous or skulking or outrageous. a dastardly attack on unarmed civilians

Examples of cowardly in a Sentence

Adjective He insisted on avoiding a cowardly retreat. She made a cowardly decision to go along with the group. a cowardly attack from behind
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Policymakers should not be allowed to hide behind cowardly and cynical arguments such as that more ambitious actions would disadvantage the poorer segments of society. Georg Kell, Forbes, 3 Sep. 2021 For Phil Metzger, a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, the call was cowardly. Marina Koren, The Atlantic, 27 Aug. 2021 Where the Ku Klux Klan cowardly planted explosives in the homes of civil rights activists, of men of God like Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, in places of worship. Roy S. Johnson |, al, 20 Aug. 2021 Of the cowardly white boys who screamed insults and poured drinks on Black young men and women seeking service at lunch counters in the 1960s, first in Greensboro, N.C., and later in Birmingham and other cities throughout the segregated South. Roy S. Johnson |, al, 14 Aug. 2021 Paul Castro has praised the police for their handling of the investigation and characterized Williams's alleged violence towards his son as cowardly. Fox News, 31 July 2021 The predictable subset of the pundit class framing Biles’s decision as cowardly—proof that the modern athlete is coddled, or that the supply of American grit is running low—could not have chosen a less fitting mark. Robert O'connell, The Atlantic, 28 July 2021 The once-cowardly clergyman has earned my Most Improved Character Award, by the way. Erik Kain, Forbes, 3 July 2021 For truth-telling, cowardly Republican members of Congress voted -- in secret and by voice vote -- to oust the third-highest ranking Republican from her leadership position. Arkansas Online, 15 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The Court’s cowardly decision to uphold a flagrantly unconstitutional assault on women’s rights and health is staggering. John Mccormack, National Review, 2 Sep. 2021 That’s what makes his cowardly behavior so unbelievably cruel and selfish. cleveland, 5 Aug. 2021 But Gawain breaks the ostensibly cowardly silence, takes up the challenge, and decapitates the Green Knight in a single blow. Richard Brod, The New Yorker, 3 Aug. 2021 Interstellar was during the height of Damon’s stardom — when the surprise of him turning up in this movie as a supporting character was indeed a surprise — and the actor gets a rare chance to be underhanded and cowardly. Tim Grierson, Vulture, 30 July 2021 The cowardly and unprovoked attack on this young victim is terribly disturbing. Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, 8 July 2021 This is a cowardly cop-out that harms public health. Marion Renault, The New Republic, 24 June 2021 Immediately after the cowardly crime was committed at The Florida Holocaust Museum, the community came together. Michael Igel, CNN, 9 June 2021 Avoiding issues because of a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, particularly related to discrimination, is cowardly. Teresa Hopke, Forbes, 24 May 2021

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

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First Known Use of cowardly


14th century, in the meaning defined above


1551, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of cowardly was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

12 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cowardly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for cowardly



English Language Learners Definition of cowardly

: afraid in a way that makes you unable to do what is right or expected : lacking courage


cow·​ard·​ly | \ ˈkau̇-ərd-lē How to pronounce cowardly (audio) \

Kids Definition of cowardly

1 : shamefully fearful a cowardly traitor
2 : showing shameful fear Then he … said how hard-hearted and cowardly it was to hurt the weak …— Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

Other Words from cowardly

cowardliness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on cowardly

Nglish: Translation of cowardly for Spanish Speakers


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