1 a : vigor and strength of spirit or temperament
b : staying quality : stamina
2 : quality of temperament or disposition
Did You Know?
Originally, "mettle" was simply a variant spelling of the word "metal" (which dates to at least the 14th 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.
The tractor had proved its mettle, lasting for over four generations, but Bobby knew that it was high time to lay it to rest.
"One thousand runners from across the country tested their mettle Saturday in the second annual Tough Mountain Challenge by flinging their bodies through obstacles on a 3-mile course." -- From an article by Terry Karkos in the Sun Journal (Maine), July 24, 2011
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