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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle French poltron, from Italian poltrone.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /pɒlˈtɹuːn/
  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /pɑlˈtɹun/


poltroon (plural poltroons)

  1. An ignoble or total coward; a dastard; a mean-spirited wretch.
    • c. 1590, William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3, Act I, Scene 1,[1]
      Patience is for poltroons, such as he:
      He durst not sit there, had your father lived.
    • 1727, Daniel Defoe, An Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions, London: J. Roberts, Chapter 8, p. 144,[2]
      For the Devil’s a Coward in Nature,
      A pitiful sorry Poltroon;
      If you take but the Whip, he’ll give you the Slip;
      And before you can lash him, he’ll run.
    • 1778, George Washington, to Charles Lee following an act of insubordination
      You damned poltroon, you never tried them!
    • 1842, Nicholas Michell, The Traduced: An Historical Romance, London: T. & W. Boone, Volume I, Chapter 28, pp. 266-267,[3]
      "To gain life by means of a breach of faith and honour, were indeed to render myself the poltroon, and the villain my accusers believe me."
    • 1951, P. G. Wodehouse, 'The Old Reliable', Hutchinson, London: 1981, p 162,
      The sounds outside had ceased...But somebody had been there, and she proposed to look into the matter thoroughly. There was nothing of the poltroon about Adela Shannon Cork
    • 1959, Robert A.Heinlein, Starship Troopers
      First is our unbreakable rule that every candidate must be a trained trooper, blooded under fire, a veteran of combat drops. No other army in history has stuck to this rule, although some came close. Most great military schools of the past — Saint Cyr, West Point, Sandhurst, Colorado Springs didn’t even pretend to follow it; they accepted civilian boys, trained them, commissioned them, sent them out with no battle experience to command men... and sometimes discovered too late that this smart young ‘officer’ was a fool, a poltroon, or a hysteric.
    • 'e2018' Jared, "Tech Evangelist", Silicon Valley episode 42, 5 minutes
      You judas, you cow-handed poltroon, we thought you were a stallion.




poltroon (comparative more poltroon, superlative most poltroon)

  1. Cowardly.
    • 1926, T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Chapter 82,[4]
      Accordingly, to excuse our deliberate inactivity in the north, we had to make a show of impotence, which gave them to understand that the Arabs were too poltroon to cut the line near Maan and keep it cut.



Further reading[edit]