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The first known use of lily-livered was in 1605. From the medieval belief that the liver was the seat of courage, and the pale color of the lily flower. A person who had no blood in their liver would have no courage and would thus be a coward. Equivalent to lily + livered.
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lily-livered (comparative more lily-livered, superlative most lily-livered)
- (idiomatic) Cowardly, lacking courage.
- c. 1603–1606, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of King Lear”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies […] (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene ii], page 291, column 2:
- 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, The History of Pendennis. […], volume (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, […], published 1849–1850, →OCLC:
- But as for that lily-livered sneak—that poor lyin' swindlin' cringin' cur of a Clavering—who stands in my shoes—stands in my shoes, hang him!
- 2016, Pokémon Sun and Moon, Hapu to Lillie:
- Ho! Then you do your best, Lillie. No one could call you lily-livered!