met·​tle·​some ˈme-tᵊl-səm How to pronounce mettlesome (audio)
: full of mettle : spirited

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The 17th-century adjective mettlesome (popularly used of spirited horses) sometimes appeared as the variant metalsome. That's not surprising. In the 16th century and for some time after, mettle was a variant spelling of metal—that is, the word for substances such as gold, copper, and iron. The 16th century was also when metal—or mettle—acquired the figurative sense of "spirit," "courage," or "stamina." However, by the early 18th century, dictionaries were noting the distinction between metal, used for the substance, and mettle, used for "spirit," so that nowadays the words mettle and mettlesome are rarely associated with metal.

Examples of mettlesome in a Sentence

the mettlesome opening dance number got the audience all jazzed up a mettlesome debate on the teaching of evolution in the schools
Recent Examples on the Web He may have been provoked into battle by the ruler of Cebu, who was using Magellan’s troops to rid himself of a mettlesome chieftain known to raid the trade ships that navigated the waters in and around the islands. Tim Carman, Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mettlesome.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1635, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mettlesome was in 1635


Dictionary Entries Near mettlesome

Cite this Entry

“Mettlesome.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


met·​tle·​some ˈmet-ᵊl-səm How to pronounce mettlesome (audio)
: full of mettle : spirited
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