lily-livered

adjective

lily-liv·​ered ˈli-lē-ˈli-vərd How to pronounce lily-livered (audio)
: lacking courage : cowardly

Did you know?

The basis of the word lily-livered lies in an old belief. Years ago, people thought that health and temperament were the products of a balance or imbalance of four bodily fluids, or humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. It was believed that a deficiency of yellow bile, or choler, the humor that governed anger, spirit, and courage, would leave a person's liver colorless or white. Someone with this deficiency, and so white-livered, would be spiritless and a coward. Lily-livered and white-livered have been used synonymously since the 17th century, but lily-livered is now the more common expression, probably because of its alliteration.

Word History

First Known Use

1605, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lily-livered was in 1605

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Cite this Entry

“Lily-livered.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lily-livered. Accessed 5 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

lily-livered

adjective

lily-liv·​ered
ˌlil-ē-ˈliv-ərd
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