c.1300 (adj.) "confessing oneself to be overcome or vanquished," from O.Fr. recreant
"yielding, giving," prp. of recroire
"to yield in a trial by combat, surrender allegiance," perhaps on notion of "take back one's pledge, yield one's cause," from re-
"again, back" + croire
"entrust, believe," from L. credere.
"Non sufficit ... nisi dicat illud verbum odiosum, quod recreantus sit." [Bracton, c.1260]
Meaning "unfaithful to duty" is from 1643. Noun sense of "one who yields in combat, coward, faint-hearted person" is first recorded c.1400.