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[rek-ree-uh nt] /ˈrɛk ri ənt/
cowardly or craven.
unfaithful, disloyal, or traitorous.
a coward.
an apostate, traitor, or renegade.
Origin of recreant
1300-50; Middle English < Old French, adj. and noun use of present participle of recreire to yield in a contest, equivalent to re- re- + creire < Latin crēdere to believe
Related forms
recreance, recreancy, noun
recreantly, adverb
unrecreant, adjective
1. dastardly, pusillanimous, base, faint-hearted, yellow. 2. faithless, untrue, apostate. 3. dastard.
1. brave. 2. loyal. 3. hero. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for recreant
Historical Examples
  • We will return to Bertram Chesleigh, little Golden's recreant lover.

    Little Golden's Daughter Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller
  • Finding her so obstinate he had said to her in a loud voice, "Die, recreant!"

  • "He's a coward," said Bernard teasingly, alluding to the recreant Jim.

    The Voice of the People Ellen Glasgow
  • With Peter Pan for company, Sophie waited on the porch for the recreant pair.

    Glory of Youth Temple Bailey
  • In abandoning and replacing him a democracy is not recreant to the principle of individual liberty.

    The Promise Of American Life Herbert David Croly
  • "Why you should call him a recreant knight, I cannot for the life of me understand," she said.

    Kept in the Dark Anthony Trollope
  • Among the Tartars was a recreant Genoese who taught them metal work and had once lived at the court of Cambaluc.

    The Path of the King John Buchan
  • Nor would he come forth, for all that Sir Bors called him coward and recreant.

    King Arthur's Knights Henry Gilbert
  • If the virus did not take the schoolmaster ostentatiously washed his hands of the recreant.

    The New Education Scott Nearing
  • The groomsmen are denouncing him, as he deserves to be, as a slanderer and recreant.

    Marion's Faith. Charles King
British Dictionary definitions for recreant


cowardly; faint-hearted
a disloyal or cowardly person
Derived Forms
recreance, recreancy, noun
recreantly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Old French, from recroire to surrender, from re- + Latin crēdere to believe; compare miscreant
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for recreant

c.1300, "confessing oneself to be overcome or vanquished," from Old French recreant "defeated, vanquished, yielding, giving; weak, exhausted; cowardly," present participle adjective from recroire "to yield in a trial by combat, surrender allegiance," literally "believe again;" perhaps on notion of "take back one's pledge, yield one's cause," from re- "again, back" (see re-) + croire "entrust, believe," from Latin credere (see credo).

Non sufficit ... nisi dicat illud verbum odiosum, quod recreantus sit. [Bracton, c.1260]
Meaning "cowardly" in English is from late 14c. Meaning "unfaithful to duty" is from 1640s.


"one who yields in combat, one who begs for mercy, one who admits defeat," early 15c., hence "coward, faint-hearted wretch;" from recreant (adj.) and from Old French recreant as a noun, "one who acknowledges defeat, a craven, coward, renegade, traitor, wretch." In English, sense of "apostate, deserter, villain" is from 1560s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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