Student Dictionary

One entry found for coward.
Main Entry: cow·ard
Pronunciation: primarystresskaudot(-schwa)rd
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English coward "coward," from early French cuard "coward," from cue, coe "tail," from Latin cauda "tail" --related to CODA, 2CUE, QUEUE --see Word History at QUEUE
: one who shows shameful fear or timidity
- coward adjective
Word History A frightened animal may put its tail between its hind legs, and if it is very frightened it may run away. In an animal like the hare, the white flash of the fleeing tail is especially obvious. This action gives us the phrase turn tail, meaning "to run away, flee." But even tailless animals like people can turn tail and run when frightened. It is in the "tail end" of an army that you might expect to find the cowards. We do not know whether the word coward developed from the idea of an animal's tail or an army's, but we do know the word comes from an early French word that meant "tail."

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