cow·​ard·​ly | \ˈkau̇(-ə)rd-lē \

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


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

Mnangagwa later visited the vice presidents and declared the ‘‘cowardly act’’ will not disrupt next month’s historic elections. Hadra Ahmed,, "Explosions hit rallies for leaders of Ethiopia, Zimbabwe," 23 June 2018 Likewise, the show's pirates are lovable rogues, at once endearing and threatening, bloodthirsty and cowardly. Jack Helbig, Chicago Reader, "After 139 years, Pirates of Penzance is still a satisfying combination of sweet and salty," 27 June 2018 And also brand-new tonight, the acting director of ICE is fiercely responding to Nancy Pelosi who called federal immigration authorities cowardly. Fox News, "Hannity: McCabe is as corrupt and crooked as they come," 14 Mar. 2018 And in Greek mythology, the use of poison as a weapon of war was often considered cowardly, a tricky technique used by those who were not heroes. Lily Rothman, Time, "A Long, Brutal History of Chemical Weapons Lies Behind Trump's Decision to Order Airstrikes in Syria," 13 Apr. 2018 Less obvious but far more pervasive harm has been caused by those who fear being judged cowardly and so behave recklessly. Alex Kingsbury,, "The lesson of the ‘Broward Coward’," 23 Feb. 2018 Richard Spencer, for example, has been unable to find an attorney to represent him in Virginia due to many attorneys being cowardly in defending controversial people. Robert Allen, Detroit Free Press, "Alt-right attorney defends racism, homophobia, Richard Spencer," 1 Mar. 2018 While political neutrality was for years seen as safe and balanced, today it can just as easily be interpreted as uninspired, tired, and cowardly. Patricia Nakache, Fortune, "Commentary: Dick's Is Showing Us Why Companies Can't Afford to Be Cowards Anymore," 1 Mar. 2018 An attorney for Peterson on Monday denied that his client had acted unprofessionally or cowardly during the shooting. Anne Gearan, Washington Post, "Trump says he would have rushed in to protect students from gunman at Florida high school," 26 Feb. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

These cowardly actions are despicable & have no place in this Country. Stavros Agorakis, Vox, "“Violence is never OK”: political leaders respond to bomb threats against Obamas, Clintons," 24 Oct. 2018 Managers too lazy to supervise or too cowardly to fire would dispatch to the copy desk anybody who had bungled every other assignment. John E. Mcintyre,, "We owe a debt to Hank Glamann," 13 July 2018 It is considered unhealthy, an almost cowardly psychic constriction. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "We the seagulls," 22 June 2018 The prince finds sour amusement in the way the old lout can talk his way out of any cowardly mischief, but his mind is elsewhere. Charles Mcnulty,, "Tom Hanks, Hamish Linklater and a 'Henry IV' worthy of applause," 10 June 2018 Pretending the law requires it is cowardly nonsense. Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, "Donald Trump's 'don't blame me' strategy extends to splitting immigrant families," 5 June 2018 Mrs May was equally cowardly in her approach to social care. The Economist, "Theresa May’s lacklustre plan for the NHS," 21 June 2018 More recently, the election of Donald Trump and the prominence of social media in our daily lives have given voice to the cowardly types of racists. Monique Judge, The Root, "When Will White People Learn That Racist Social Media Posts Will Haunt Them Forever?," 27 June 2018 In Chappaquiddick, the foundation of the Kennedy dynasty is not public service, but Joe’s ruthless ambition, which has made Ted callow, cowardly, and disposed to drink. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "The Eternal Return of the Kennedys," 30 Apr. 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near cowardly







cow bean

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Time Traveler for cowardly

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

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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 \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on cowardly

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cowardly

Spanish Central: Translation of cowardly

Nglish: Translation of cowardly for Spanish Speakers

Comments on cowardly

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noxious or harmful

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