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 Uproarious fans in a stadium create a pressurized atmosphere designed to test the mettle and anxieties of an athlete. Danny Chau, The Atlantic, "Athletes During the Pandemic Are Learning What Fans Have Always Known," 20 May 2020 Who have mettle enough to catch hold of the demons of our era and blow them to pieces? David Kipen, Los Angeles Times, "Q&A: Author Cynthia Ozick will spend her 92nd birthday ‘contemplating mayhem’," 8 Apr. 2020 His leadership, professionalism, championship mettle, ceaseless energy, work ethic, attitude, screen-setting, rebounding, relentless hustle. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "How Larry Nance Jr. emerged from a dark place and turned his season around: “We’re seeing the player I came in expecting to be”," 6 Feb. 2020 To prove the Sycamore processor’s mettle, scientists developed a task that would be incredibly challenging for a classical computer to solve. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "Google Confirms It Has Achieved Quantum Supremacy. Now What?," 23 Oct. 2019 Once blocked in classrooms, the company now has a shot at proving its educational mettle. Mark Bergen,, "YouTubers Are the Teachers Now," 8 May 2020 To prove their environmental mettle, both companies are adding B’s to their recyclable labels. Katie Sehl, Fortune, "Behind the B Corp movement and its fight against corporate ‘greenwashing’," 22 Apr. 2020 Couples or siblings will always talk up their mind melds, and there’s nothing like an errant guess to test a relationship’s semantic mettle. The New Yorker, "New Yorker Crossword Constructors on the Best Games to Play While Social Distancing," 22 Apr. 2020 The once-expansive Democratic field has winnowed considerably as debates and the first three early-voting contests, in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, have tested campaigns’ mettle. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Next Democratic Debate: Who’s In, When It Starts, and How to Watch the South Carolina Debate," 24 Feb. 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

Time Traveler

The first known use of mettle was in 1581

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Last Updated

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mettle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on mettle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mettle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mettle

Spanish Central: Translation of mettle

Nglish: Translation of mettle for Spanish Speakers

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