cra·​ven | \ˈkrā-vən \

Definition of craven 

1 archaic : defeated, vanquished

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from craven

craven noun
cravenly adverb
cravenness \ˈkrā-​vən-​nəs \ 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

Yet the reality is that, as with most large groups of Americans, the vast majority of veterans are neither heroic nor craven but somewhere in between. Stanley Mcchrystal, WSJ, "Don’t Vote for a Uniform, Vote for a Candidate," 19 Oct. 2018 Is Prime Day a mildly craven capitalistic construct determined to invoke a Pavlovian FOMO response rooted in Western materialism? The Editors Of Gq, GQ, "Amazon Prime Day 2018: Everything You Need to Know," 3 July 2018 In the end, the movie reveals very little about an artist’s nature — and a lot about craven commercial calculation. Edouard Deluc, New York Times, "Review: ‘Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti’ Doesn’t Make Much of a (Post-) Impression," 10 July 2018 Such craven celebration over a decision that may well occupy its own place in the pantheon of the most deplorable ever issued reflects how low our judicial politics have fallen. Cristian Farias, Daily Intelligencer, "It’s Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Now," 26 June 2018 The latter two options are unpalatable to our craven political elites because they would get voted out of office, if the folks with torches and pitchforks didn’t get them first. WSJ, "Not Much Has Changed With Social Security," 14 June 2018 Here comes the craven author, belonging to a profession that’s one part thrill and many parts heartbreak, marching into the bookstore: Where is my name? Lauren Markham, Longreads, "For Me, With Love and Squalor," 7 June 2018 All those smaller stories within the larger story, real ones like the craven ship owner Ismay and the band playing on, embellished legends like the Unsinkable Molly Brown, invented melodramas like Jack and Rose. Ty Burr,, "Why do some events become historic and others fade from memory?," 24 May 2018 But their grins were as wide as their hopes were secure, whereas Isabelle is prey to sudden squalls of tears and craven entreaties. Michelle Mcnamara, The New Yorker, "“Avengers: Infinity War” and “Let the Sunshine In”," 27 Apr. 2018

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 1

History and Etymology for craven

Middle English cravant

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about craven

Listen to Our Podcast about craven

Dictionary Entries near craven








Statistics for craven

Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for craven

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for craven



English Language Learners Definition of craven

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


cra·​ven | \ˈkrā-vən \

Kids Definition of craven

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on craven

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with craven

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for craven

Spanish Central: Translation of craven

Nglish: Translation of craven for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of craven for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about craven

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).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!