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


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

This kind of cowardly attack has no place in our country. Dallas News, "Ted Cruz demands federal inquiry of Portland mayor after Antifa attack on conservative journalist," 1 July 2019 Their passion is for the spontaneous or cowardly or unexamined deed, and its consequences. The New York Review of Books, "Christine Smallwood," 10 May 2012 His cowardly specialty was picking off the old, weak and infirm stragglers at the back of the Exodus pack. Lou Weiss, WSJ, "Amalek Comes to Pittsburgh," 28 Oct. 2018 As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily. Vogue, "Jussie Smollett Speaks Out About Racist, Homophobic Attack," 1 Feb. 2019 And the legislative branch of government is either too cowardly or too bought off to do anything about this — which is probably exactly what President Trump expected would happen. Will Bunch,, "What's a guy gotta do to get impeached in Trump's out-of-control America? | Will Bunch," 10 Apr. 2018 That’s what’s so cowardly and dishonest about its approach. Michael Hiltzik,, "Trump's DOJ labels the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, placing healthcare for 133 million at risk," 8 June 2018 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

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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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 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

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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

What made you want to look up cowardly? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an act or instance of editing or removing

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