Alternative formsEdit


From Middle French poltron, from Italian poltrone.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /pɒlˈtɹuːn/
  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /pɑlˈtɹun/, /pɔlˈtɹun/, /polˈtɹun/


poltroon (plural poltroons)

  1. An ignoble or total coward; a dastard; a mean-spirited wretch.
    • c. 1591–1592 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Third Part of Henry the Sixt, []”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene i]:
      Patience is for poltroons, such as he:
      He durst not sit there, had your father lived.
    • 1727, Daniel Defoe, J. Roberts, editor, An Essay on the History and Reality of Apparitions[1], London, Chapter 8, page 144:
      For the Devil’s a Coward in Nature,
      A pitiful sorry Poltroon;
      If you take but the Whip, he’ll give you the Slip;
      And before you can lash him, he’ll run.
    • 1778, George Washington, to Charles Lee following an act of insubordination:
      You damned poltroon, you never tried them!
    • 1842, Nicholas Michell, “Chapter 28”, in The Traduced: An Historical Romance[2], volume I, London: T. & W. Boone, page 266-267:
      "To gain life by means of a breach of faith and honour, were indeed to render myself the poltroon, and the villain my accusers believe me."
    • 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 38, in The History of Pendennis. [], volume (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1849–1850, OCLC 2057953:
      Strong had long understood Sir Francis Clavering’s character, as that of a man utterly weak in purpose, in principle, and intellect, a moral and physical trifler and poltroon.
    • 1951, P. G. Wodehouse, 'The Old Reliable', 1981 edition, London: Hutchinson, page 162:
      The sounds outside had ceased...But somebody had been there, and she proposed to look into the matter thoroughly. There was nothing of the poltroon about Adela Shannon Cork
    • 1959, Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers:
      First is our unbreakable rule that every candidate must be a trained trooper, blooded under fire, a veteran of combat drops. No other army in history has stuck to this rule, although some came close. Most great military schools of the past — Saint Cyr, West Point, Sandhurst, Colorado Springs didn’t even pretend to follow it; they accepted civilian boys, trained them, commissioned them, sent them out with no battle experience to command men... and sometimes discovered too late that this smart young ‘officer’ was a fool, a poltroon, or a hysteric.
    • 2018 Jared, "Tech Evangelist", Silicon Valley episode 42, 5 minutes
      You judas, you cow-handed poltroon, we thought you were a stallion.




poltroon (comparative more poltroon, superlative most poltroon)

  1. Cowardly.
    • 1926, T. E. Lawrence, “Chapter 82”, in Seven Pillars of Wisdom[3]:
      Accordingly, to excuse our deliberate inactivity in the north, we had to make a show of impotence, which gave them to understand that the Arabs were too poltroon to cut the line near Maan and keep it cut.



Further readingEdit