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 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 Led by two scheming, self-serving tribunes (Jonathan Hadary and Enid Graham, wonderfully craven), the common folk of Rome are a fickle, fearful lot whose allegiances change with the wind. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: An Electrifying ‘Coriolanus,’ Addicted to War," 5 Aug. 2019 And the advertising, which tries to be so cheeky and self-referential by celebrating the commercial partnership between two of America’s leading purveyors of stoner food, just comes across as craven. Maura Judkis, Washington Post, "KFC’s Cheetos chicken sandwich looks toxic and tastes like a missed opportunity," 17 July 2019 But with an amoral president — and Trump certainly fills that bill — a moral framework is necessary to remind citizens of how craven some actions of this president truly are. Brian Stelter, CNN, "From Fox to the Sun, battle over Baltimore rages in the wake of Trump's tweets," 30 July 2019 Within a rhetoric of universal approbation, every writer turns craven; all talent withers. Hermione Hoby, The New Yorker, "What Does It Mean to Be a “Real” Writer?," 3 July 2019 Welcome back, to fans and sad sack wasp traps alike, to the craven death pit of greed and egomania that is Succession. Andrew R. Chow, Time, "The Succession Season 2 Roy Family Power Rankings," 8 Aug. 2019 Brown had been enduring a lot of battles on a lot of fronts at Texas, a program that sits at the cross-currents of obnoxious wealth and craven political power and intensely unrealistic expectations relative to history. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Why Mack Brown's return to North Carolina at age 67 makes perfect sense," 17 July 2019 His habit of making opposite promises to different factions in the party (offering One Nation Toryism to the left and hard Brexit to the right) owes less to strategic cunning than to a craven desire to be liked. Boris Johnson, The Economist, "Boris Johnson, illusionist," 4 July 2019 On the one hand, Trump is an existential threat to the body politic, a craven and corrupt swamp creature worse than Nixon. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Democrats Are Losing This Made-for-TV Moment," 12 June 2019

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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Statistics for craven

Last Updated

3 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for craven

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

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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

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


a calculated move

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