met·​tle | \ ˈme-tᵊl How to pronounce mettle (audio) \

Definition of mettle

1a : vigor and strength of spirit or temperament (see temperament sense 1a) a girl of … mettle who lost a baby brother to leukemia— Bill Zehme
b : staying quality : stamina equipment that proved its mettle proved his mettle in battle
2 : quality of temperament or disposition gentlemen of brave mettle— William Shakespeare
on one's mettle
: aroused to do one's best

Other Words from mettle

mettled \ ˈme-​tᵊld How to pronounce mettle (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for mettle

courage, mettle, spirit, resolution, tenacity mean mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship. courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty. the courage to support unpopular causes mettle suggests an ingrained capacity for meeting strain or difficulty with fortitude and resilience. a challenge that will test your mettle spirit also suggests a quality of temperament enabling one to hold one's own or keep up one's morale when opposed or threatened. her spirit was unbroken by failure resolution stresses firm determination to achieve one's ends. the resolution of pioneer women tenacity adds to resolution implications of stubborn persistence and unwillingness to admit defeat. held to their beliefs with great tenacity

Is mettle Connected to Metal?

Originally, mettle was simply a variant spelling of the word metal (which dates to at least the 13th 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.

Examples of mettle in a Sentence

The competition will test her mettle.
Recent Examples on the Web Now one algorithm has proved its mettle in real hospitals, helping doctors and nurses treat sepsis cases nearly two hours earlier on average—and cutting the condition’s hospital mortality rate by 18 percent. Sophie Bushwick, Scientific American, 1 Aug. 2022 If anything, the past few years have proven their mettle and prepared them for pretty much anything, said Adena Hefets, cofounder and CEO of rent-to-own platform DivvyHomes. Alicia Adamczyk, Fortune, 15 July 2022 Aiden Parent, Oconomowoc: The freshman showed his mettle by winning a playoff for the final individual berth from the ultra-deep Homestead Sectional. Mark Stewart, Journal Sentinel, 5 June 2022 The Bucks showed their championship mettle by pushing the best-of-seven series to its limit. Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 May 2022 The Detroit Red Wings showed some mettle, sticking it to the two-time defending champions and enjoying the reward of a satisfying performance. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, 20 Apr. 2022 The causes, the pilots say, include cancellation chaos caused by severe weather, and climbing demand for air travel testing the mettle of still-recovering airlines. Gregory Wallace, CNN, 16 Apr. 2022 For the host Golden Eagles, testing their mettle against some of the nation’s top recruits was a prime opportunity to highlight their own strengths and put positive plays on film., 26 Sep. 2021 Trail Running Races Even pure road runners can benefit from testing their mettle at a trail running race, and not all trail running races are ultra-distance. Lisa Jhung, Outside Online, 11 Jan. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mettle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of mettle

1581, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for mettle

alteration of metal

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metteur en scène



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Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mettle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for mettle


met·​tle | \ ˈme-tᵊl How to pronounce mettle (audio) \

Kids Definition of mettle

: strength of spirit : courage The competition will test her mettle.

More from Merriam-Webster on mettle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mettle

Nglish: Translation of mettle for Spanish Speakers


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