met·​tle | \ ˈme-tᵊl How to pronounce mettle (audio) \

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 \ ˈme-​tᵊld How to pronounce mettled (audio) \ 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 Legendary racer Rod Hall and his sons Chad and Josh proved the mettle of the H1 by winning the stock class in the grueling Baja 1000 a whopping 11 times. Ben Stewart, Popular Mechanics, "The Hummer's 40-Year Journey From Military Hero to Electrified Future Truck," 25 Oct. 2020 Collegiate showed its mettle to start the second half and took a 1-0 lead when Hunter Sekelsky headed a ball past hard-charging KCD goalkeeper Greg Murphy in the 45th minute. Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, "No. 3 KCD topples No. 1 Collegiate in Seventh Region boys soccer semifinal," 20 Oct. 2020 This correspondent, a volunteer on a recent trial run for Berlin’s new airport, had been handed a fake hunting-rifle to test the mettle of security staff. The Economist, "Will it really take off? Berlin’s long-delayed airport is finally opening," 17 Oct. 2020 This year continues to test our mettle, with no signs of abating. Mike Kerrigan, WSJ, "The Constitution Makes Beautiful Music," 14 Oct. 2020 The former Pan-Am Games silver medalist has shown promise and showed his professional mettle by brushing off a head butt and taking some shots. Jason Hoffman, The Enquirer, "Cincinnati's Duke Ragan is ready for his next step after starting 2-0 in Top Rank Boxing," 4 Oct. 2020 With John Velazquez riding him in the Derby, Authentic showed his mettle by pulling away after Tiz the Law challenged at the top of the stretch. Childs Walker,, "After a tumultuous start to 2020, trainer Bob Baffert is back in Baltimore, seeking his record eighth Preakness victory," 2 Oct. 2020 James showed his mettle against the Nuggets, averaging 27 points, 10.4 rebounds and 9 assists over the five-game series. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "N.B.A. Finals Preview: Lakers (Expected) vs. Heat (Surprise!)," 30 Sep. 2020 In its drive to change that outlook, effective altruism has its work cut out for it, as its tenets require a mettle that not everyone possesses. Zachary Pincus-roth, Washington Post, "They want to upend the way we think about charity — and their message is winning both converts and critics.," 23 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for mettle

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The first known use of mettle was in 1581

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Last Updated

29 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mettle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for mettle


How to pronounce mettle (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of mettle

: strength of spirit : ability to continue despite difficulties


met·​tle | \ ˈme-tᵊl How to pronounce mettle (audio) \

Kids Definition of mettle

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

More from Merriam-Webster on mettle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mettle

Nglish: Translation of mettle for Spanish Speakers

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