55 Synonyms for “Courage”

By Mark Nichol

Courage comes in many varieties, often identified by distinct synonyms. Some terms refer to determination more than bravery, but the two qualities are intertwined. Here’s a roster of the valiant vocabulary:

1-2. Adventuresomeness: Like many words on this list, this one is encumbered by the suffix -ness, but it and its nearly identical-looking and somewhat less clumsy synonym adventurousness convey a connotation of a flair for undertaking risky or dangerous enterprises.

3. Audacity: This term’s meaning as a synonym for courage is tainted by another sense, that of shamelessness.

4. Backbone: This word, one of several on this list that figuratively refer to body parts, implies that a courageous person is unyielding or indestructible.

5. Balls: This vulgar slang for testicles suggests that a person said, in a figurative sense, to possess them is endowed with an anatomical feature equated with virility and thus with courage.

6. Boldness: This word means “daring, fearless” but can also mean “adventurous” as well as “presumptuous.”

7. Bottle: This British English slang term derives from the word for a container for liquid; whether it alludes to the receptacle’s sturdiness or to the false courage inspired by imbibing alcohol from it is unclear.

8. Bravery: This word, like courage itself, is an all-purpose term, though it also can mean “finery” or “ostentatious display,” perhaps from the idea of a triumphant hero’s trappings. Brave, too, has an alternate meaning of “excellent,” and as a noun used to refer to an American Indian warrior.

9. Chivalry: This term, from the French word chevaler (whence chevalier as a synonym for knight; the Latin ancestor is caballarius, “horseman”), originally referred to the courage of a knight but later came to encompass other ideal but often unrealized qualities such as courtesy and devoutness.

10. Cojones: This frequently misspelled slang word, from the Spanish word meaning “testicles,” is often used as a (slightly) less offensive alternative to its counterpart in English slang.

11. Courageousness: This is an oddly superfluous term, considering that courage is more compact and means exactly the same thing, but courageous is a useful adjective.

12-13. Daring: This word has a connotation of reckless disregard for personal safety. Daringness is an unnecessarily extended (and therefore unnecessary) variant.

14. Dash: This term suggests ostentatious courage but can also imply the pretense of that quality, and might be confused with other senses of the word. Dashing, however, is a vivid adjective.

15. Dauntlessness: Among the words here saddled with a suffix, dauntlessness is nevertheless an expressive term. Its root, daunt, means “to tame or subdue.”

16. Determination: This word connotes resolve more than courage but is a useful associate for synonyms of the latter term.

17. Doughtiness: This word itself is somewhat clumsy, but the root word, doughty, is one of the most evocative synonyms for brave.

18. Elan: This borrowing from French, best (at least in print) with an acute accent over the first letter, comes from a word meaning “rush” and implies vigor rather than courage but has a swashbuckling flair.

19. Enterprise: This is a synonym for initiative more than for courage but has a similar sense.

20. Fearlessness: This pedestrian word pales by comparison with some of its synonyms but might be useful in a pinch.

21-22. Fortitude: The original sense of this word was “strength,” but now it connotes the determination that enables courage to prevail over fear. The variant “intestinal fortitude” implies that one will not succumb to an abdominal ailment when confronted with adversity.

23. Gallantry: This word, like some others on the list, can easily suggest a pretense of courage rather than the quality itself.

24. Greatheartedness: This word also means “generosity,” so although it can imply both qualities in one person, when it is employed, the context should make the intended sense clear.

25. Grit: This term, memorably employed in the book and film title True Grit, connotes coarse but uncompromising courage.

26-27. Guts: This slang term for the abdominal organs, traditionally thought of as the seat of emotions, applies to a combination of courage and indefatigability. A more verbose variant is gutsiness.

28. Hardihood: This term, combining the adjective hardy (which can mean “brave” as well as “tough” and “audacious”) and the suffix -hood (“state of being”), implies combined courage and robustness.

29. Heart: This word’s use as a synonym for courage stems from the idea that the heart is the source of courage. The root of the latter word, indeed, comes from coeur, the French term for the heart (and ultimately from the Latin word cor).

30. Heroism: The root word, hero, has evolved to have a broad range of senses, and the word for the quality is similarly generic.

31-32. Intrepidity: This word and its close variant intrepidness are based on intrepid, meaning “fearless” (the root word is also the basis of trepidation).

33. Lionheartedness: This term is based on the association of the animal with courage; England’s King Richard I, a medieval model of chivalry, earned the epithet “the Lionhearted.”

34. Mettle: This word, adapted from metal, means “stamina” but is also employed to refer to courage.

35. Moxie: This word, taken from the brand name for a carbonated beverage that, like its better-known and longer-lived competitors Pepsi and Coca-Cola, was originally touted as a source of pep, initially meant “energy” but came to be associated with expertise as well as courage.

36. Nerve: Because of this word’s additional sense of presumptuousness, the connotation of courage might not be clear; both meanings stem from the outdated idea that boldness is conveyed through the body’s nerves.

37. Panache: This word derived from a Latin term for “small wing” implies flamboyance as much as courage, perhaps from the ostentatious display of feathers on knights’ helmets.

38. Pecker: This British English slang term doesn’t translate to American English so well; the association of the word as an irregular synonym for courage as well as with the male genitalia is discussed in the entry for balls.

39. Pluck: This word, converted to noun form from the verb, implies determined courage despite overwhelming odds or in the face of significant adversity.

40. Prowess: This word refers to remarkable skill as well as outstanding courage.

41-43. Resoluteness: This term, more gracefully rendered as resolution or even resolve, implies a purposefulness, rather than courage per se.

44. Spirit: This word carries the connotation of assertiveness or firmness as opposed to courage; it can also mean a display of energy or animation.

45. Spunk: This word, originally referring to materials suitable as tinder, is akin to mettle and pluck in meaning.

46. Stalwartness: The root word of this term, stalwart, is an alteration of stalworth, from an Old English word meaning “serviceable,” and refers more to strength and vigor than courage but is easily associated with the latter virtue.

47-48. Stoutheartedness: This word alludes to the idea that a large, vigorous heart imbues one with courage. A more concise variant is stoutness; someone who is of reliable courage is sometimes referred to as stout.

49. Temerity: This word implies a rash, contemptuous disregard for danger.

50-51. Tenacity: This term and its longer variant tenaciousness suggest persistence.

52. Valor: This word (and the related adjective valiant) implies a romantic ideal of courage.

53. Venturesomeness: The meaning of this word is virtually identical to its virtually identical synonym adventuresomeness (see above).

54. Verve: This term, which shares the same origin as verb, refers to a boldness of expression, whether verbal or artistic.

55. Virtue: In addition to senses of morality or another beneficial quality, this term has acquired status as a synonym for courage.

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7 Responses to “55 Synonyms for “Courage””

  • Abigail Dean

    What about gumption?

  • Bazzy

    The 55 synonyms for courage — You missed one!
    The adverb WIGHT.
    The OED says “1.1 Strong and courageous, esp. in warfare; having or showing prowess; valiant, doughty, brave, bold, ‘stout’. a.1.a of a person, esp. a warrior. ”

    That’s how the term white knight go misnomered into it’s present spelling.

    well?

  • dragonwielder

    15. Dauntlessness – I’m reminded of the musical Once Upon a Mattress; the male lead’s name is Prince Dauntless. Contrary to what his name implies, Dauntless is rather fearful of his overbearing mother, and must learn to stand up to her.

    17. Doughtiness – I recently saw a post where someone misspelled “doubt” as “dought” (the phrase: “I dought it”). They were attempting to criticize a prominent political figure. I am sure they didn’t realize that “I dought it” is not only incorrect and doesn’t make a lick of sense, it sends a completely different message than what they intended!

  • Sally

    On ‘balls.’

    How disgusting it is to imply that courage is the sole preserve of testicle-bearers!

    (And how demeaning when we women are *reduced* to that status!)

  • w

    “Adventuresomeness” sounds so weird…like a made-up word 🙂

  • Mark MacKay

    As and antidote for all of those balls I suggest we include “ovaries.” It can also work as an alternative to “seminal” – use “ovarian.”

    Adrienne Rich’s ovarian later work influenced a generation of women writers and thinkers.

  • Dave Johnson

    “Balls” is not intended to be exclusive or derogatory towards women. It has more to do with the effects of castration of a man, taking away his aggressiveness. Please stop looking for a reason to be offended.

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