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

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Other Words from craven

craven noun
cravenly adverb
cravenness \ ˈkrā-​vən-​nəs How to pronounce craven (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 Surrounding Vegas is a quarantine area, filled with refugees living in tents who seem to be stuck in a bureaucratic no-man’s-land, preyed upon by craven guards. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, "Army of the Dead Is a Tale of Two Zack Snyders," 11 May 2021 The craven commitment to fan service that has long afflicted big-budget adaptations is still in evidence. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, "Review: It doesn’t skimp on gore, but the new ‘Mortal Kombat’ movie is no flawless victory," 22 Apr. 2021 Rather than accept responsibility for their craven actions, Republican leaders blame me and others who have championed voting rights (and actually read the bill). Michael Lee, Washington Examiner, "USA Today 'stealth edits' Stacey Abrams op-ed that was sympathetic to boycotts after MLB moved All-Star Game," 27 Apr. 2021 Now in his third decade in power, Mr. Putin, 68, appears more convinced than ever of his special, historic role as the father of a reborn Russian nation, fighting at home and abroad against a craven, hypocritical, morally decaying West. New York Times, "‘We Know How to Defend Our Interests’: Putin’s Emerging Hard Line," 20 Apr. 2021 Could some craven developer turn it into an upscale steakhouse? Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times, "Could a developer demolish the Cinerama Dome? Yes, but here’s what would have to happen first," 13 Apr. 2021 Democratic operatives, activists, and politicians began tweeting and called me a craven criminal engaged in election fraud. Jordan Tygh, National Review, "Xavier Becerra Is a Ruthless Partisan. I Should Know," 14 Mar. 2021 The ugliest parts of me revel in the craven parts of him. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "Good Naked vs. Bad Naked," 13 Mar. 2021 This been a craven and desperate money grab to try to recoup some of the revenue that has been lost, in a season with no ticket sales or concessions. Ann Killion,, "Pandemic be damned, Pac-12 determined to finish farcical football season," 14 Dec. 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.

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First Known Use of craven

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for craven

Middle English cravant

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

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Last Updated

15 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Craven.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for craven



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

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