What It Means
: full of vigor and stamina : spirited
"'I like this place because everything they have can kill you,' Edith Pearlman says, perusing the menu of a Brookline pub on a recent gray afternoon. The remark proves fitting introduction to both the septuagenarian author and her work: at once mischievous and mettlesome, with a twist near the end." — Leah Hager Cohen, The Boston Globe, 10 Apr. 2012
"He was convinced that [the director] John Huston decided after the first week that the film was a dud and if he could kill or seriously injure his star it would be cancelled and the insurance would pay up. He had Hurt riding over rough terrain on mettlesome horses." — John Boorman, The Guardian, 17 Dec. 2017
Did You Know?
The 17th-century adjective mettlesome (popularly used of spirited horses) sometimes appeared as the variant metalsome. That's not surprising. In the 16th century and for some time after, mettle was a variant spelling of metal—that is, the word for substances such as gold, copper, and iron. (Metal itself dates from the 14th century and descends from a Greek term meaning "mine" or "metal.") The 16th century was also when metal—or mettle—acquired the figurative sense of "spirit," "courage," or "stamina." However, by the early 18th century, dictionaries were noting the distinction between metal, used for the substance, and mettle, used for "spirit," so that nowadays the words mettle and mettlesome are rarely associated with metal.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Antonym
Fill in the blanks to complete an antonym of mettlesome that means "lacking energy or spirit": l _ s _ le _ s.VIEW THE ANSWER
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