cowardly late 14c. (adv.); 1550s (adj.), from COWARD (Cf. coward) + -LY (Cf. -ly). The adverb is much older than the adjective:
Yit had I levir do what I may Than here to dye thus cowerdelye ["Le Morte d'Arthur," c.1450]
An O.E. word for "cowardly" was earg, which also meant "slothful." Related: Cowardliness.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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  • Cowardly — Cow ard*ly, a. 1. Wanting courage; basely or weakly timid or fearful; pusillanimous; spiritless. [1913 Webster] The cowardly rascals that ran from the battle. Shak. [1913 Webster] 2. Proceeding from fear of danger or other consequences; befitting …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cowardly — Fowler (1926) criticized the use of cowardly to describe people and their actions in cases where ‘advantage has [merely] been taken of superior strength or position’, and where a word such as cruel or unchivalrous might be more appropriate. The… …   Modern English usage

  • cowardly — [kou′ərd lē] adj. of or typical of a coward; shamefully fearful adv. in the manner of a coward cowardliness n. SYN. COWARDLY, the general term, suggests a reprehensible lack of courage in the face of danger or pain [a cowardly deserter ]; CRAVEN… …   English World dictionary

  • Cowardly — Cow ard*ly, adv. In the manner of a coward. Spenser. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cowardly — index base (bad), ignoble, recreant Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • cowardly — [adj] fearful afraid, anxious, apprehensive, backward, base, caitiff, chickenhearted, cowering, cowhearted, craven, dastardly, diffident, dismayed, fainthearted, frightened, gutless, having the willies*, jittery, lacking courage, lily livered*,… …   New thesaurus

  • cowardly — I. adverb Date: 14th century in a cowardly manner II. adjective Date: 1551 being, resembling, or befitting a coward < a cowardly retreat > • cowardliness noun Synonyms: cowardly, pusillanimous, craven …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • cowardly — cowardliness, n. /kow euhrd lee/, adj. 1. lacking courage; contemptibly timid. 2. characteristic of or befitting a coward; despicably mean, covert, or unprincipled: a cowardly attack on a weak, defenseless man. adv. 3. like a coward. [1275 1325;… …   Universalium

  • cowardly — adj. cowardly to + inf. (it was cowardly of them to behave like that) * * * [ kaʊədlɪ] cowardly to + inf. (it was cowardly of them to behave like that) …   Combinatory dictionary

  • cowardly — cow|ard|ly [ kauərdli ] adjective 1. ) a cowardly person is not brave enough to fight or do something difficult or dangerous that they should do a ) used about someone s behavior: a cowardly decision 2. ) cruel toward someone who is weaker than… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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