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In the nineteenth century, we no longer believed in this wildly inventive vision. Instead, scholars have noted that in French—and also in the obviously related Italian poltron—the word meant not only a coward, but also someone who wallowed in laziness and idleness. This led them to believe that it came from the Italian poltro, a sofa, an etymology respectable enough to be quoted in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Find out which words work together and create more natural English with the Oxford Collocations Dictionary app. Poltroon is an old-fashioned word for a type of person that exists at any age: a coward. If you behave in a way that doesn`t show courage or confidence, you`re acting like a poltroon. In movies, the bad guys are often sneaky and devious cowards, rather than brave and direct. A hero is the opposite of a poltroon. Poltroons can be described as cowardly and pathetic, but mostly cowardly. Poltroon was one of the most popular insults of the nineteenth century, meaning a complete coward, often preceded by adjectives such as low or miserable.

Stories of the more sensational genre preferred stronger words: A Poltroon is a coward. The Poltroons lack courage and strength. In the eighteenth century, it was generally believed that its origin was that of an important classical French scholar of the previous century, Claudius Salmasius. He theorized that the word came from medieval archers. Those who did not want to risk their skin in battle only had to render themselves unable to shoot a longbow by cutting off their right thumb. In Latin, pollice truncus meant mutilated in the thumb; Salmasius claimed that this had been corrupted in the French Poltron. He insulted you, then he behaved like a Poltroon at Silverbridge, and I won`t let you know again. But I cannot accept to be seen as a fool; and even more so not for a Poltroon – you`ll excuse the little hint.

“Then you played Poltroon,” he said savagely. “If you are not the truest coward and liliest Poltroon of all His Majesty`s possessions,” continued the Duke, “follow me in this chariot, prince.” Sylvester`s Eve, by William Henry Farn, published in Blackwood`s Lady`s Magazine in 1843. Poltroon, eaten away by Lily, became a cliché later ridiculed by P. G. Wodehouse. Joe tried to catch him with the hook of the boat, but it was useless, and the body of the unfortunate Poltroon was swept away. If you come to synonyms, a poltroon is just a chicken. Stable chickens are chickens long known for their shyness, and the name chicken has been applied to human cowards since the 17th century. Poltroon has been used even longer for wimps and thieves, at least since the beginning of the 16th century. And if you remember that chickens are called poultry, you can guess that birds and cowards are related both by etymology and synonymy. Poltroon took Middle French English, which in turn got it from Old Italian poltrone, meaning “cowardly”.

The Italian term goes back to the Latin pullus, a root that is also an ancestor of pullets (“a young hen”) and poultry. My mistake – and I will not forgive myself hastily – was to believe that an upstart does not have to be a poltroon. Music theme by Joshua Stamper 2006©New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP Join our community to access the latest language learning and assessment tips from Oxford University Press! Today`s Oxford etymologists are certain that both stories are false. Instead, they refer to the classic Latin pullus for the young of an animal, especially a young domestic chicken or chicken. It is also the source of pullets and is related to poultry and – further – foals. The link is an old reference to the notoriously shy and cowardly behavior of farm chickens. Poultron from average French, from the old Italian poltrone, probably related to the poltro foal, finally from the Latin pullus young of an animal – more in foals Sometimes a “cacafuego” can be a real “slubberdegullion” Find the answers with Practical English Usage online, your essential guide to problems in English.