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From Middle English prowesse, prouwesse, proues, prouesce, prouesse (bravery in battle; act of bravery; excellence; nobility of character; intelligence), from Old French proeche, proesce, proeësche (goodness; excellence; bravery),[1] from Old French preu, prou, prouz, proz, pruz (good; excellent; brave). Compare English proud.



prowess (countable and uncountable, plural prowesses)

  1. (uncountable) Skillfulness and manual ability; adroitness or dexterity.
    • 1888 October 14, Ambrose Bierce, “An Unfinished Race”, in The San Francisco Examiner, OCLC 780100842; republished in Can Such Things Be?, Washington, D.C.: The Neale Publishing Company, 1903, OCLC 925845300, page 313:
      When in liquor he would make foolish wagers. On one of these too frequent occasions he was boasting of his prowess as a pedestrian and athlete, and the outcome was a match against nature. For a stake of one sovereign he undertook to run all the way to Coventry and back, a distance of something more than forty miles.
    • 2017 November 10, Daniel Taylor, “Youthful England earn draw with Germany but Lingard rues late miss”, in The Guardian[1], London, archived from the original on 28 March 2018:
      There is such a sense of inferiority sometimes when it comes to facing Germany, with all their World Cups, their penalty prowess and easy sophistication, it might come as a surprise to learn that, in head-to-head encounters, England actually match their opponents.
  2. (uncountable) Distinguished bravery or courage, especially in battle; heroism.
  3. (countable) An act of prowess.
    1. An act of adroitness or dexterity.
      • 1869 July, “Art. VI.—Memoir of Sir William Hamilton, Bart., Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh. By John Veitch, M.A., Professor of Logic and Rhetoric in the University of Glasgow. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1869.”, in The North British Review, volume L, number C, Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, OCLC 3658824, page 493:
        I recollect hearing [] of his [Sir William Hamilton's] simple, independent, meditative habits, ruggedly athletic modes of exercise, fondness for his big dog, etc. etc.: [] I did not witness, much less share in, any of the swimming or other athletic prowesses.
      • 2007, Christopher Hodapp, “From Darkness to Light”, in Richard Harris, editor, Solomon’s Builders: Freemasons, Founding Fathers and the Secrets of Washington, D.C., Berkeley, Calif.: Ulysses Press, →ISBN, pages 35–36:
        As the Middle Ages drew to a close and the Renaissance rose like a new sun, knowledge of philosophy and the sciences became objects of interest to a nobility that had once held only skill in battle as a prowess worth attaining.
    2. An act of distinguished bravery or courage; a heroic deed.
      • a. 1472, Thomas Malory, “Capitulum viij”, in [Le Morte Darthur], book V, [London: [] by William Caxton], published 31 July 1485, OCLC 71490786, leaf 87, recto; republished as H[einrich] Oskar Sommer, editor, Le Morte Darthur [], London: David Nutt, [], 1889, OCLC 890162034, lines 11–15, page 173:
        Thenne the batails approuched and ſhoue and ſhowted on bothe ſydes / many men ouerthrowen / hurte / & ſlayn and grete valyaunces / proweſſes and appertyces of werre were that day ſhewed []
        (please add an English translation of this quote)
      • 1851, Charles Fourier; Hugh Doherty, transl., “Ulterlogue”, in The Passions of the Human Soul, and Their Influence on Society and Civilization. [] In Two Volumes, volume II, London: Hippolyte Bailliere, [], OCLC 937887148, page 88:
        If it is deemed of so much importance, why has no attention been paid to the effects of general friendship, such as certain military prowesses, in which you see a portion of a regiment sacrifice itself in support of another portion?

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  1. ^ prǒues(se, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 14 April 2018.