August 29, 2016
lily-livered (adjective)
\LILL-ee-LIV-erd\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: lacking courage : cowardly
How do you use it?
"All right, you lily-livered varmint," yelled the sheriff, "come out of there with your hands up!"
Are you a word wiz?

"Lily-livered" sure is a strange-looking word. Why do you think cowardly folks came to be called "lily-livered"?

We're afraid the only right answer is A. In the Middle Ages, doctors believed personality was controlled by four bodily fluids called "humors," and that having too much or too little of any humor would affect your behavior. They thought "choler" or "yellow bile," the humor produced by the liver, controlled anger and courage. Doctors claimed that if you had too much choler, you would be mean and nasty, but if you didn't have enough, your liver would turn white and you would be a coward. A choler-deprived individual was originally called "white-livered," but poetic types associated the condition with the white of lilies, and "lily-livered" was born.
Archive RSS Feed