Pusillanimous is an adjective that describes something or someone as afraid or weak, consistently without bravery or courage, timid. In pronunciation, the first vowel makes a long sound while the second vowel is a short (pew sill an ee muss). The adverb form is pusillanimously. The noun form is pusillanimity or pusillanimousness, with the former being the more preferred form.

It is very close to the original Latin pusillanimus that meant small spirit or small mind.

Orange and Cream Book English Classroom Poster

Stop Making Awkward Mistakes!

Download our list of 35 commonly confused English words and improve your English today.

This word’s usage has been in a steep decline since the 1800s. In our research we found the term mostly used in the political arena, or in a list of words used in a spelling bee.


And on behalf of us more pusillanimous parents, who are actually a little scared of both the mothers’ mafia and our stroppy kids, I salute your courage. [The Telegraph]

In this scenario, American commentators will surely berate Merkel for her pusillanimous disloyalty, and accuse Hollande of similar personality flaws. [World Politics Review]

In each and every case, Congress has pusillanimously conceded victory to the president, which precludes adjudication of the issues by the Supreme Court except at the edges. [The Washington Times]

Tragically, given the pusillanimity of our politicians and the rapid growth in the Muslim population it is impossible to see how we can ever be at peace again. [Express]

He knows his traditions—the quiet dismay of Bob Newhart, the pusillanimousness of Bob Hope, the wounded feelings of Jack Benny. [Metro Active]

8 thoughts on “Pusillanimous”

  1. If those who do not know this word. Let me tell you how we use it today. “You are a pussy.” Pussy means pusillanimous and not the female genital organs.

    • If “pussy” means “pusillanimous”, why does the sentence, “You are a pusillanimous,” not make sense? In that sentence, the object is an adjective, which is grammatically incorrect.

    • I think that’s a real stretch… Pusillanimous is an adjective; pussy a noun. It seems unlikely that people educated enough to take an adjective that is not in the common lexicon to use as an epithet, but then misuse it as a noun.

      Rather, I suspect that “You are a pussy” is the result of common, uneducated misogyny.

    • The insult came from pussycat. Cats were commonly called pussy. That then was used as a term of endearment for women, puss. Then that was connected to female gentalia. Since it was related to women, of course people then used it to insult men. This is all well documented.

      There is nothing to show a connection of pusillanimous to pussy besides coincidence.


Leave a Comment