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

The mullahs and their Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps want to prove their mettle by showing that Mr Trump’s actions have costs—for everyone. The Economist, "As America and Iran inch closer to war, new talks are needed," 28 June 2019 The boldest and fittest might even venture to enter the two-day Andes Race this month, which started four years ago to test the mettle of ultra-runners. Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Places to Visit in August," 26 June 2019 Days after becoming an Airbnb director, Jordan proved his mettle. Polina Marinova, Fortune, "Term Sheet -- Monday, June 24," 24 June 2019 This was a night to doubt the Warriors’ mettle at your peril. Bruce Jenkins,, "Did Raptors just miss their best shot? Doubt Warriors’ mettle at your peril," 10 June 2019 This alliance with Caesar and Pompey not only helped pass laws favorable to his economic interests, but also gave Crassus the chance to prove his mettle as a soldier and earn the love reserved for Rome’s great commanders. Andrea Frediani, National Geographic, "Money was not enough for Crassus, the richest man in Rome," 11 June 2019 As the host country, France didn’t undergo the demands of a qualifying campaign but proved its mettle by stunning the U.S. in January behind two goals from Kadidiatou Diani. Kevin Baxter,, "Women’s World Cup preview Group A: Playing at home a motivator for France," 7 June 2019 The big birthday celebration would take place at a stadium in Belgrade and would feature youth brigades performing choreographed exercises to show their mettle and commitment. Aleksandar Hemon, The New Yorker, "My Mother and the Failed Experiment of Yugoslavia," 5 June 2019 The first test of her political mettle will come at three local elections in eastern Germany next year, where the AfD is expected to steal a chunk of the CDU vote and, in some states, become the largest party. Bojan Pancevski, WSJ, "Election of Merkel Ally Defuses Threat to Her Authority, for Now," 7 Dec. 2018

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

10 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 How to pronounce mettle (audio) \

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mettle

Spanish Central: Translation of mettle

Nglish: Translation of mettle for Spanish Speakers

Comments on mettle

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to complain fretfully

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