cra·​ven ˈkrā-vən How to pronounce craven (audio)
: lacking the least bit of courage : contemptibly fainthearted
craven mercenaries who would not fight …Thomas Fleming
archaic : defeated, vanquished
craven noun
cravenly adverb
cravenness noun

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, as in "After the attack, one editorialist characterized the witnesses as 'the pusillanimous bystanders.'"

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

Examples of craven in a Sentence

a craven refusal to deliver the unwelcome news personally
Recent Examples on the Web This much was on display in Tucker Carlson’s interview of Vladimir Putin, which took advantage of Carlson’s craven character, the prevalence of social media noise, the gullibility of many in the West and of course the rottenness of Donald Trump. Mike O'Sullivan, Forbes, 10 Feb. 2024 In the ferocious rhetoric of pro- or anti-animal testing partisans, animal researchers are either craven monkey torturers running frivolous experiments or unimpeachable practitioners of life-changing science. Erika Fry, Fortune, 27 Jan. 2024 And craven reviewers go along with the deceit, pretending that the assemblage of broad performances and mash-up of Britney–Taylor Smith–Olivia Rodrigo musical videos by directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. is not cringe but fresh and expert. Armond White, National Review, 17 Jan. 2024 The rationales on offer for this act of insubordination were positively craven. The Editors, National Review, 20 Dec. 2023 And the day before the league’s executives met in London to present craven self-interest as a form of democracy, Everton was stripped of 10 points in the standings for surpassing the maximum loss permitted by the league. Rory Smith, New York Times, 24 Nov. 2023 Killers is the first time Scorsese tailored a movie to such a craven political moment rather than exploring the politics sublimated in specific, antisocial characters. Armond White, National Review, 8 Nov. 2023 All of them present a witch’s brew of demotic diversity and craven dishonesty. Armond White, National Review, 27 Sep. 2023 And in a town where craven grasps for power are part of the daily routine, Eva and her musical are right at home. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 18 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'craven.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English cravant

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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


Dictionary Entries Near craven

Cite this Entry

“Craven.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
cravenly adverb


2 of 2 noun
: coward

More from Merriam-Webster on craven

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