trait which fear prevents bold action

Cowardice is a trait wherein excessive fear prevents an individual from taking a risk or facing danger. It is the opposite of courage. As a label, "cowardice" indicates a failure of character in the face of a challenge. One who succumbs to cowardice is known as a coward. The United States military codes of justice proscribe cowardice in combat as a crime punishable by death (note the phrase "shot at dawn"). As the opposite of an action or trait that many existing and formerly extant cultures demand, cowardice rates as a character flaw that many societies and their representatives stigmatize and/or punish.

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance, nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. ~ Kant
The coward calls himself cautious, the miser thrifty. ~ Syrus


To defend oneself by alliance is proof of cowardice. - Attila
  • COWARD, n. One who in a perilous emergency thinks with his legs.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • All doubt is cowardice — all trust is brave.
  • Folly such as yours,
    Grac'd with a sword, and worthier of a fan,
    Has made what enemies could ne'er have done.
    Our arch of empire, stedfast but for you,
    A mutilated structure, soon to fall.
  • Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible...
    • Bill Finger, Batman, The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom Detective Comics #33 (November 1939)
  • My own experience confirms the opinion that the Mussalman as a rule is a bully, and the Hindu as a rule is a coward. I have noticed this in railway trains, on public roads, and in the quar­rels which I had the privilege of settling. Need the Hindu blame the Mussalman for his cowardice? Where there are cowards, there will always be bullies... But I, as a Hindu, am more ashamed of Hindu cowardice than I am angry at the Mussalman bullying.... My non-violence does not admit of running away from danger and leaving dear ones unprotected. Between violence and cowardly flight, I can only prefer violence to cowardice.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, The source quoted is "Hindu-Muslim Tension: Its Cause and Cure", Young India, 29/5/1924; reproduced in M.K. Gandhi: The Hindu-Muslim Unity, p.35-36. [1] Young India, 1924-1926. S. Ganesan. 1927. pp. 32-36.
  • Cowards are cruel, but the brave
    Love mercy, and delight to save.
    • John Gay, Fables (1727), Part I. Fable 1.
  • Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance, nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. It is so easy to be immature. If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me. The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them (including the entire fair sex) regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. Having first made their domestic livestock dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures will not take a single step without the go-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone. Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they would in the end certainly learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes men timid and usually frightens them out of all further attempts.
  • And cowards will have the reputation of bravery and the brave will be cheerless like cowards...
    • Mahabharata, Book 3, Vana Parva, Section CLXL, p. 392, (c. 400 BCE)
  • Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe or politic, nor popular but take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.
  • Only cowards kill the vanquished
  • Cowards are nice, they're interesting, they're gentle, they wouldn't think of shooting down people in a parade from a tower. They want to live, so they can see their kids. They're very brave.
  • You souls of geese,
    That bear the shapes of men, how have you run
    From slaves that apes would beat!
  • So bees with smoke and doves with noisome stench
    Are from their hives and houses driven away.
    They call'd us for our fierceness English dogs;
    Now like to whelps, we crying run away.
  • So cowards fight when they can fly no further;
    As doves do peck the falcon's piercing talons;
    So desperate thieves, all hopeless of their lives,
    Breathe out invectives 'gainst the officers.
  • Thou slave, thou wretch, thou coward!
    Thou little valiant, great in villany!
    Thou ever strong upon the stronger side!
    Thou Fortune's champion, that dost never fight
    But when her humorous ladyship is by
    To teach thee safety!
  • Dost thou now fall over to my foes?
    Thou wear a lion's hide! doff it for shame,
    And hang a calf's skin on those recreant limbs.
  • Milk-liver'd man!
    That bear'st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs,
    Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
    Thine honor from thy suffering.
  • Wouldst thou have that
    Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
    And live a coward in thine own esteem,
    Letting "I dare not" wait upon, "I would";
    Like the poor cat i' the adage?
  • How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false
    As stairs of sand, wear yet upon their chins
    The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars,
    Who, inward search'd, have livers white as milk.
  • That which in mean men we entitle patience
    Is pale cold cowardice in noble breasts.
  • By this good light, this is a very shallow monster!—I afear'd of him!—A very weak monster!—The man i' the moon!—A most poor, credulous monster!—Well drawn, monster, in good sooth!
  • Ignavissimus quisque, et ut res docuit, in periculo non ausurus, nimis verbis et lingua feroces.
    • Every recreant who proved his timidity in the hour of danger, was afterwards boldest in words and tongue.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), IV. 62.
  • “Show yourselves,” cried Stephon. “Only cowards hide in the dark.”
    “Cowards do many things,” said the voice. “Cowards kill their Commanders and make it look like a bandit attack. Cowards plot in secret. Cowards breed insurrection. Cowards plan the abuse of women.”
  • To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical QuotationsEdit

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 145-46.
  • To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.
  • That all men would be cowards if they dare,
    Some men we know have courage to declare.
  • The coward never on himself relies,
    But to an equal for assistance flies.
  • Der Feige droht nur, wo er sicher ist.
  • When desp'rate ills demand a speedy cure,
    Distrust is cowardice, and prudence folly.
  • He
    That kills himself to avoid misery, fears it,
    And, at the best, shows but a bastard valour.
    This life's a fort committed to my trust,
    Which I must not yield up, till it be forced:
    Nor will I. He's not valiant that dares die,
    But he that boldly bears calamity.
  • Men lie, who lack courage to tell truth—the cowards!
  • Timidi est optare necem.
    • To wish for death is a coward's part.
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, IV. 115.
  • Virtutis expers verbis jactans gloriam
    Ignotos fallit, notis est derisui.
    • A coward boasting of his courage may deceive strangers, but he is a laughing-stock to those who know him.
    • Phaedrus, Fables, I. 11. 1.
  • Vous semblez les anguilles de Melun; vous criez devant qu'on vous escorche.
    • You are like the eels of Melun; you cry out before you are skinned.
    • François Rabelais, Gargantua.
  • Canis timidus vehementius latrat quam mordet.
    • A cowardly cur barks more fiercely than it bites.
    • Quintus Curtius Rufus, De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni, VII, 4, 13.
  • When all the blandishments of life are gone,
    The coward sneaks to death, the brave live on.
  • Timidus se vocat cautum, parcum sordidus.
    • The coward calls himself cautious, the miser thrifty.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • The man that lays his hand on woman,
    Save in the way of kindness, is a wretch
    Whom 'twere gross flattery to name a coward.
  • Adieu, canaux, canards, canaille.
    • Voltaire, summing up his Impressions de Voyage, on his return from the Netherlands.

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