met·​tle | \ˈme-tᵊl \

Definition of mettle 

1a : vigor and strength of spirit or temperament (see temperament sense 1a) a girl of … mettle who lost a baby brother to leukemia— Bill Zehme

b : staying quality : stamina equipment that proved its mettle proved his mettle in battle

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

on one's mettle

: aroused to do one's best

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Other Words from mettle

mettled \-​tᵊld \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Is mettle Connected to Metal?

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.

Examples of mettle in a Sentence

The competition will test her mettle.

Recent Examples on the Web

Instead, Lyons is testing her mettle in the turbulent world of media. Eliza Brooke, Vox, "Jenna Lyons, the former powerhouse behind J.Crew, finally announced her next move," 9 Oct. 2018 With the help of the company's first full-time employee, Jeff Johnson, Knight proved his mettle as a salesman, pushing the company to a million dollars in sales by 1970. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "How a Dirty Old Waffle Iron Became Nike's Holy Grail," 15 July 2016 Defeat to Portugal showed their inexperience, but this new generation now has the mettle as well as the talent to go far in Russia., "2018 FIFA World Cup Team Preview: Analysing France's Chances at the Tournament," 1 June 2018 The battle became a defining moment in World War I, not just containing the German push along the Western Front but proving the US military mettle for all to see. Raf Casert,, "1918 battle was turning point for US forces in World War I," 26 May 2018 The battle became a defining moment in World War I, not just containing the German push along the Western Front but proving the Americans’ military mettle for all to see. Washington Post, "World War I battle of Bellau Wood was a turning point for US," 26 May 2018 But even before a season-ending Beethoven cycle that will tour to Vienna and Tokyo, Cleveland proved its mettle, yet again, by going above and beyond. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "An Orchestra’s Ecstatic, Once-in-a-Lifetime Birthday Party," 27 Apr. 2018 The mettle that stood out to the Delmarva coaching staff in terms of limiting damage was mostly present. Jon Meoli,, "Orioles prospect Zac Lowther shows why promotion to Frederick was essential in debut Wednesday," 31 May 2018 With a lineup still sorting itself out and arguably the biggest series of the season coming right after a brutal road series, how Auburn responds will show this team's mettle and character. James Crepea,, "Auburn softball looking to get back in win column against Alabama," 16 Nov. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mettle.' 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 mettle

1581, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for mettle

alteration of metal

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Statistics for mettle

Last Updated

27 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for mettle

The first known use of mettle was in 1581

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More Definitions for mettle



English Language Learners Definition of mettle

: strength of spirit : ability to continue despite difficulties


met·​tle | \ˈme-tᵊl \

Kids Definition of mettle

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on mettle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mettle

Spanish Central: Translation of mettle

Nglish: Translation of mettle for Spanish Speakers

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