Definition of mettle
- a girl of … mettle who lost a baby brother to leukemia
- —Bill Zehme
- equipment that proved its mettle
- proved his mettle in battle
- gentlemen of brave mettle
- —William Shakespeare
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
The competition will test her mettle.
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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.
First Known Use: 1581See Words from the same year
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