cra·​ven | \ ˈkrā-vən How to pronounce craven (audio) \

Definition of craven

1 : lacking the least bit of courage : contemptibly fainthearted craven mercenaries who would not fight …— Thomas Fleming
2 archaic : defeated, vanquished

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from craven

craven noun
cravenly adverb
cravenness \ ˈkrā-​vən-​nəs How to pronounce cravenness (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for craven

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

Did You Know?

Craven and its synonyms "dastardly" and "pusillanimous" are all basically fancy words for "cowardly." Don't be afraid to use them - here's a little information to help you recognize the subtle distinctions in their connotations. "Craven" suggests extreme defeatism and complete lack of resistance. One might speak of "craven yes-men." "Dastardly" often implies behavior that is both cowardly and treacherous or skulking or outrageous, as in this example: "a dastardly attack on unarmed civilians." "Pusillanimous" suggests a contemptible lack of courage (e.g., "After the attack, one editorialist characterized the witnesses as 'the pusillanimous bystanders'").

Examples of craven in a Sentence

a craven refusal to deliver the unwelcome news personally
Recent Examples on the Web But the worst responses to this pandemic so far haven’t been uniquely cruel so much as predictably craven: politicians pandering to the false idol of the economy, hucksters hawking colloidal-silver and Clorox cocktails. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Strange Comfort of Reading a Pandemic Novel," 13 May 2020 The craven self-interest of the GOP knows no bounds. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Biden changes tune on whether Wisconsin primary should have taken place," 8 Apr. 2020 Many of Trump’s most craven allies have embraced the idea of consigning a few million Americans to death in order to rescue the economy. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "Right-Wing Ghouls With Graduate Degrees Take on the Pandemic," 25 Mar. 2020 Fox News has been Fox News, and their journalistic crimes -- craven garbage led by Hannity and enthusiastically supported by the sycophants at Fox & Friends, willing to surrender their souls for access -- will live in infamy. The Washington Post, "Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten," 14 Apr. 2020 His bride should be presumed innocent (until proven to be equally craven). Amy Dickinson, Detroit Free Press, "After his scam-sham wedding, friend tries again," 4 Apr. 2020 For the vaguely less craven, the pandemic has also provided some prime marketing opportunities. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "The Pandemic’s Shameless Profiteers," 3 Apr. 2020 Presidents and presidential candidates always have been charged with being craven, weak and either too dumb or too smart. oregonlive, "Donald Trump is famous for his insults, but his invective doesn’t compare to Theodore Roosevelt’s, Oregon author argues," 31 Mar. 2020 Not all teams and owners are as craven as Jacobs and Fertitta. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Next time a team owner comes looking for a handout, remember their generosity now," 26 Mar. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of craven

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for craven

Middle English cravant

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about craven

Time Traveler for craven

Time Traveler

The first known use of craven was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about craven

Statistics for craven

Last Updated

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Craven.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for craven


How to pronounce craven (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of craven

formal : having or showing a complete lack of courage : very cowardly


cra·​ven | \ ˈkrā-vən How to pronounce craven (audio) \

Kids Definition of craven

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on craven

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!