tim·​o·​rous ˈti-mə-rəs How to pronounce timorous (audio)
: of a timid disposition : fearful
reproached myself with being so timorous and cautiousDaniel Defoe
: expressing or suggesting timidity
proceed with doubtful and timorous stepsEdward Gibbon
timorously adverb
timorousness noun

Did you know?

Timid and timorous don't just have similar spellings and meanings; they are etymologically related as well. Both words ultimately derive from the Latin verb timēre, meaning "to fear." The immediate ancestor of timid is Latin timidus (with the same meaning as timid), whereas timorous traveled to Middle English by way of the Latin noun timor ("fear") and the Medieval Latin adjective timorosus. Timid may be the more common of the two words, but timorous is older. It first appeared in English in the mid-15th century; timid came on the scene a century later. Both words can mean "easily frightened" (as in "a timid mouse" or "a timorous child") as well as "indicating or characterized by fear" (as in "he gave a timid smile" or "she took a timorous step forward").

Examples of timorous in a Sentence

a shy and timorous teenager He spoke with a timorous voice.
Recent Examples on the Web Democratic moderates are often portrayed by the left as timorous figures reluctant to take strong stands for fear of political retribution. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 3 Aug. 2022 At the time Russia revealed their new new weapon, U.S. national security thinkers did an obligatory round of timorous handwringing, but, other than that, the U.S. was largely—and strangely—silent. Craig Hooper, Forbes, 3 Aug. 2022 The hospital industry has been timorous about transparency since the first large-scale quality survey was conducted by the American College of Surgeons back in 1919. Michael L. Millenson and J. Matthew Austin, STAT, 24 May 2022 Abetted by the timorous LeFou (a funny John Sygar), Gaston schemes to bend Belle to his will. Washington Post, 14 Nov. 2021 All artists, even those who appear to be timorous, quavering messes, have a core of steel. David Salle, The New York Review of Books, 17 Dec. 2020 Orange County’s chief health officer quit after receiving death threats and little backing from a timorous Board of Supervisors. Los Angeles Times, 18 June 2021 See More

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

Word History


Middle English, from Medieval Latin timorosus, from Latin timor fear, from timēre to fear

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of timorous was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near timorous

Cite this Entry

“Timorous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/timorous. Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


tim·​o·​rous ˈtim-(ə-)rəs How to pronounce timorous (audio)
: easily frightened : fearful
timorously adverb
timorousness noun

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