Student Dictionary

One entry found for lily-livered.
Main Entry: lily-liv·ered
Pronunciation: secondarystresslil-emacron-primarystressliv-schward
Function: adjective
: COWARDLY 1
Word History In the Middle Ages the study of anatomy, or the cutting up and examining of human corpses, was illegal. Most of what was thought about the body thus was based on the theory of humors. The humor, or body fluid, that was supposed to control anger, spirit, and courage was bile, produced by the liver. A person who lacked courage was supposed to have a white liver, because it had no yellow bile to color it. Thus a cowardly person was called white-livered or, more poetically, lily-livered.

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