adjective pu·sil·lan·i·mous \-ˈla-nə-məs\

Definition of pusillanimous

  1. :  lacking courage and resolution :  marked by contemptible timidity



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Examples of pusillanimous in a sentence

  1. pusillanimous politicians who vote according to whichever way the political wind is blowing

Did You Know?

Do you know someone who has a small, weak spirit, someone whose reserve of inner strength is too small to draw from in times of danger and adversity? If so, you'll find pusillanimous to be the perfect descriptor for that person. The Latin roots of this derisive adjective are pusillus, meaning "very small" (and related to pusus, meaning "boy") and animus, which means "spirit" and is the ancestor to many words in our language, including "animal" and "animate." Pusillanimous first appeared in English in the 16th century, but it gained prominence in the 1970s when Vice President Spiro Agnew famously accused his ideological rivals of "pusillanimous pussyfooting." And despite what you may have heard, pusillanimous does not serve as the basis for pussyfoot, pussycat, or a certain related vulgarism.

Origin and Etymology of pusillanimous

Late Latin pusillanimis, from Latin pusillus very small (diminutive of pusus boy) + animus spirit; perhaps akin to Latin puer child — more at puerile, animate

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of pusillanimous

cowardly, pusillanimous, craven, dastardly mean having or showing a lack of courage. cowardly implies a weak or ignoble lack of courage a cowardly failure to stand up for principle. pusillanimous suggests a contemptible lack of courage the pusillanimous fear of a future full of possibility. craven suggests extreme defeatism and complete lack of resistance secretly despised her own craven yes-men. dastardly often implies behavior that is both cowardly and treacherous or skulking or outrageous a dastardly attack on unarmed civilians.

PUSILLANIMOUS Defined for English Language Learners


adjective pu·sil·lan·i·mous \-ˈla-nə-məs\

Definition of pusillanimous for English Language Learners

  • : weak and afraid of danger

Learn More about pusillanimous

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