- Coward redirects here. For other meanings including as a surname, see coward (disambiguation).
is the characteristic of submitting to fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.
It is viewed as a negative characteristic and is almost generally frowned upon (see Universal norms
) within most, if not all global cultures, while courage
is generally rewarded and encouraged.
Acts of cowardice have long been punishible by military law, and covers a wide range of offenses such as desertion in face of the enemy and surrending to the enemy against orders, the punishment for such acts is typically severe ranging from corporal punishment to the death sentence. "Cowardly conduct is specifically mentioned within the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary
, the word "coward" comes from an Old French
(modern French couard
), a combination of the word for "tail" and an agent noun suffix
. It would therefore have meant "one with a tail" — perhaps one in the habit of turning it, or it may be derived from the dog
's habit of putting its tail between its legs when it is afraid. It is possible that the English language was enriched in such manner through military contacts with the French, or with the French-influenced Normans
that invaded England in 1066.
The English surname Coward (as in Noel Coward), however, has the same origin and meaning as the word "cowherd".