From Middle English coward, from Old French coart, cuard ( > French couard), from coue (“tail”), coe + -ard (pejorative agent noun suffix); coue, coe is in turn from Latin cauda. The reference seems to be to an animal “turning tail”, or having its tail between its legs, especially a dog. Unrelated to English cower. Displaced native Old English earg.
- (UK) enPR: kou'əd, IPA(key): /ˈkaʊəd/
Audio (Southern England) (file)
- (US) enPR: kou'ərd, IPA(key): /ˈkaʊɚd/
Audio (US) (file)
- Hyphenation: co‧ward
- Homophone: cowered
coward (plural cowards)
- A person who lacks courage.
- c. 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Ivlivs Cæsar”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies, London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, act II, scene ii, page 117, column 1:
- Cowards dye many times before their deaths, / The valiant neuer taſte of death but once: […]
- 1856: Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, Part II Chapter IV, translated by Eleanor Marx-Aveling
- He tortured himself to find out how he could make his declaration to her, and always halting between the fear of displeasing her and the shame of being such a coward, he wept with discouragement and desire. Then he took energetic resolutions, wrote letters that he tore up, put it off to times that he again deferred.
- (heraldry, of a lion) Borne in the escutcheon with his tail doubled between his legs.
- (transitive, obsolete) To intimidate.
- 1820, John Chalkhill, Thealma and Clearchus:
- The first he coped with was their captain, whom / His sword sent headless to seek out a tomb. / This cowarded the valour of the rest, […]
- English: coward
- Alternative form of