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 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 Are the Simpsons colored yellow because the show is cowardly, its one-time edginess just a relic from before the days of PC fascism? Armond White, National Review, 21 Apr. 2021 The suspension might already seem frustratingly long to some; plenty of people have called it out as cowardly and unwise, and questioned why federal officials prolonged it. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 16 Apr. 2021 Part of the blame lies with the partisan distortion of Democrats, part with their media echoes, and now part with CEOs of major companies who are uninformed at best or cowardly at worst. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 1 Apr. 2021 Hoffman, who died in 2014, was credible as smart or dumb people, as self-aware or obtuse, as powerful or weak, jolly or sad, brave or cowardly, bold or meek, quiet or loud. Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune, 31 Mar. 2021 More recently, cowardly tolerance of the lethal situation at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue illustrates this. Star Tribune, 21 Mar. 2021 Those that are so unforgiving as to seek this retribution, so cowardly as to grant it, and so dishonest as to excuse it are broken. Isaac Schorr, National Review, 30 Dec. 2020 Isayama turns the topic’s inherent potential for jingoism on its head: Though nearly the entire cast is composed of soldiers, many are cowardly and selfish. Shaan Amin, The New Republic, 16 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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 Minnesota voters have been watching, too, and many might consider a cowardly vote on Cheney by this state's four GOP representatives as disqualifying them from consideration in future elections. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, 11 May 2021 Unfortunately, Colten didn’t overcome the injury that was caused by a senseless/cowardly act! Carol Robinson |, al, 29 Mar. 2021 Yes, human beings jeered and threw full soda cans at a mother and child from the cowardly position of a moving car. Christine Koh, CNN, 18 Mar. 2021 The biggest failure of the administration thus far has been its cowardly refusal to hold Mohammed bin Salman to account for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and Biden should explain the administration’s thinking on the subject. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 16 Mar. 2021 And that's what makes made Leonard's apology all the more insincere and cowardly. Jesse Yomtov, USA TODAY, 10 Mar. 2021 The smear merchants would have simply moved on to target some other cowardly organization; one day, perhaps none shall remain to give them harbor. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 22 Jan. 2021 Don't get caught up with the suit and tie my cowardly friend. Matt Young, Chron, 21 Jan. 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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Time Traveler for cowardly

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

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Statistics for cowardly

Last Updated

27 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cowardly.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jun. 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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cowardly

Nglish: Translation of cowardly for Spanish Speakers


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