Coward and cowered are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. Homophones are a group of words with different spellings, the same pronunciations, and different meanings. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. It can be difficult to learn how to spell different words that sound the same, and homophones are commonly misused words. Said aloud, the difference is less important, because the words are pronounced the same. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing even to native English speakers when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones and understand the correct spelling; the words affect-effect are a good example, but the word pairs to, too and two, bridle and bridal, creek and creak, hoard and horde, toed and towed, or horse and hoarse, are indistinguishable from each other and are easily confused and are commonly misused. Pronunciation is usually more ambiguous, as English pronunciation may vary according to dialect, and English spelling is constantly evolving. Pronunciation may change even though the spelling doesn’t, producing two words that are pronounced in the same manner but have different meanings such as night and knight. Phonological spelling and spelling rules do not always work, and most people avoid misspelling by studying vocabulary words from spelling lists, enhancing their literacy skills through spelling practice, and learning words in English by studying a dictionary of the English language. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word threw is derived from the Old English word thrawan, and the word through came from the Old English word thurh. Homophones are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced alike but have very different usage and etymology. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a homophone in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Homophones are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the homophonic words coward and cowered, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.
A coward is a person who lacks courage or who is easily frightened. A coward is held in disdain because his fear is excessive. The adjective form is cowardly, the noun form is cowardice. The word coward is derived from the Latin word cauda, which means tail. Presumably, the expression comes from the fact that an animal will turn tail or run away so that all the predator may see is its tail.
Cowered is the past tense of the verb cower, which means to crouch in fear or to shrink away in fear. Usually, one will duck one’s head and hold up one’s hands to ward off blows when cowering. The word cowered is derived from the Middle Low German word kuren, which means to lie in wait. Related words are cower, cowers, cowering.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called President Donald Trump a “coward” for not wanting to wear face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. (Business Insider)
Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday, while calling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “psychopath” and “coward”, said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was the production of Hitler’s Nazi party which was pushing India towards the Muslim genocide. (The Associated Press of Pakistan)
Shocking footage has been released by police showing the moment a defenceless man is savagely battered as he cowered on the floor in the street. (The Daily Mail)
Most of the Republicans in Congress have cowered in the face of the revolt by far-left demonstrators, looters and rioters. (The Aspen Daily News)