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

Other Words from mettle

mettled \ ˈme-​tᵊld How to pronounce mettle (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 But Lee acquitted herself admirably during Season 30, stepping outside her comfort zone to learn, grow and test her mettle as a ballroom dancer. Mary Colurso |, al, 16 Nov. 2021 And now the Saints are gearing up for another type of game – down a starting quarterback – to test their mettle as survivors. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, 1 Nov. 2021 Without good ones a good cook cannot produce a good meal; without the finest a great chef will never show his mettle. John Mariani, Forbes, 22 Sep. 2021 The Bruins could show a lot of mettle by winning in a tough Husky Stadium environment. Los Angeles Times, 14 Oct. 2021 It’s also, as Autoblog points out, a popular spot for off-road enthusiasts to test the mettle of their 4x4s. Bryan Hood, Robb Report, 29 Sep. 2021 And as Pasqualucci traveled a vastly different road — a harrowing and ongoing medical journey that would test the mettle of almost anyone — the two friends grew, if possible, even closer., 23 Aug. 2021 The Titans showed their mettle in last week’s overtime win in Seattle, one week after getting whacked by 25 points at home to the Cardinals. Scott Horner, The Indianapolis Star, 24 Sep. 2021 Novak showed her mettle at the end of Game 2 as the Redwings tried to close out the match. Matt Le Cren,, 23 Sep. 2021

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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Dictionary Entries Near mettle

metteur en scène



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Last Updated

23 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mettle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2021.

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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.

More from Merriam-Webster on mettle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mettle

Nglish: Translation of mettle for Spanish Speakers


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