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Derived from Latin pusillanimis (faint-hearted, timid) +‎ -ous.


  • IPA(key): /pjuːsɪlˈænɪməs/, /pjuːsəlˈænəməs/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ænɪməs


pusillanimous (comparative more pusillanimous, superlative most pusillanimous)

  1. Showing ignoble cowardice, or contemptible timidity. [from 16th c.]
    The soldier deserted his troop in a pusillanimous manner.
    • 1882, Mark Twain, On the Decay of the Art of Lying[1]:
      Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others' advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling.
    • 1973, Gore Vidal, Burr , chapter 36:
      (Aaron Burr and Andrew Jackson ride together in Tennessee; Burr narrates): Jackson shouted at me his view of the duel. "Never read such a damned lot of nonsense as the press has been writing! All that hypocritical caterwauling for that Creole bastard (referring to Alexander Hamilton) who fought you of his own free will, just like a gentleman which he wasn't, if you'll forgive me, Colonel! I know you couldn't have met him unless you thought he was one, but he was not, Sir. He was the worst man in this union, as you, Sir, are the best. The best, and that goes for that pusillanimous spotted caitiff of a president (referring to Thomas Jefferson) we got.
    • 2007, David Potter, chapter 1, in The Emperors of Rome, page 36:
      Octavian, by contrast, was pusillanimous in battle ... but proved himself extremely adept in the political arena

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