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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)

  1. (idiomatic) Cowardly, lacking courage.
    • c. 1603–1606, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of King Lear”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act II, scene ii], page 291, column 2:
      Ste[ward]. What doſt thou know me for? / Kent. [] [A] Lilly-liuered, action-taking knave, [] one that would'ſt be a Baud in way of good ſeruice, and art nothing but the compoſition of a Knaue, Begger, Coward, Pandar, and the Sonne and Heire of a Mungrill Bitch, []
    • 1850, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 61, in The History of Pendennis:
      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!