noun met·tle \ˈme-təl\

Definition of mettle

  1. 1a :  vigor and strength of spirit or temperament (see temperament 3b) a girl of … mettle who lost a baby brother to leukemia — Bill Zehmeb :  staying quality :  stamina equipment that proved its mettle proved his mettle in battle

  2. 2 :  quality of temperament or disposition gentlemen of brave mettle — William Shakespeare


play \-təld\ adjective

on one's mettle

  1. :  aroused to do one's best

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Examples of mettle in a sentence

  1. The competition will test her mettle.

Did You Know?

Originally, mettle was simply a variant spelling of the word metal (which dates to at least the 13th century), and it was used in all of the same senses as its metallic relative. Over time, however, mettle came to be used mainly in figurative senses referring to the quality of someone's character. It eventually became a distinct English word in its own right, losing its literal sense altogether. Metal remained a term primarily used for those hard, shiny substances such as steel or iron, but it also acquired a figurative use. Today, both words can mean "vigor and strength of spirit or temperament," but only metal is used of metallic substances.

Origin and Etymology of mettle

alteration of metal

First Known Use: 1581

Synonym Discussion of mettle

courage, mettle, spirit, resolution, tenacity mean mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship. courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty the courage to support unpopular causes. mettle suggests an ingrained capacity for meeting strain or difficulty with fortitude and resilience a challenge that will test your mettle. spirit also suggests a quality of temperament enabling one to hold one's own or keep up one's morale when opposed or threatened her spirit was unbroken by failure. resolution stresses firm determination to achieve one's ends the resolution of pioneer women. tenacity adds to resolution implications of stubborn persistence and unwillingness to admit defeat held to their beliefs with great tenacity.

METTLE Defined for English Language Learners


noun met·tle \ˈme-təl\

Definition of mettle for English Language Learners

  • : strength of spirit : ability to continue despite difficulties

METTLE Defined for Kids


noun met·tle \ˈme-təl\

Definition of mettle for Students

  1. :  strength of spirit :  courage The competition will test her mettle.

Seen and Heard

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capable of being understood in two ways

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