pol·​troon | \ päl-ˈtrün How to pronounce poltroon (audio) \

Definition of poltroon

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a spiritless coward : craven



Definition of poltroon (Entry 2 of 2)

: characterized by complete cowardice

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Did You Know?


When you get down to synonyms, a "poltroon" is just a "chicken." Barnyard chickens are fowl that have long been noted for timidity, and the name "chicken" has been applied to human cowards since the 17th century. "Poltroon" has been used for wimps and cravens for even longer, since the early 16th century at least. And if you remember that chickens are dubbed "poultry," you may guess that the birds and the cowards are linked by etymology as well as synonymy. English picked up "poltroon" from Middle French, which in turn got it from Old Italian poltrone, meaning "coward." The Italian term has been traced to the Latin pullus, a root that is also an ancestor of "pullet" (a young hen) and "poultry."

Examples of poltroon in a Sentence

Noun those poltroons in the state legislature who have caved in to bigotry on this important issue of basic civil rights Adjective a military commander who was so poltroon that he surrendered without having fired so much as a single shot

First Known Use of poltroon


circa 1529, in the meaning defined above


1645, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for poltroon


Middle French poultron, from Old Italian poltrone, probably akin to poltro colt, ultimately from Latin pullus young of an animal — more at foal

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The first known use of poltroon was circa 1529

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Cite this Entry

“Poltroon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poltroon?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=p&file=poltro01. Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on poltroon

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for poltroon

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with poltroon

Nglish: Translation of poltroon for Spanish Speakers

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