Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Mettlesome

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The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is mettlesome. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Mettlesome means “full of vigor and strength of spirit or temperament.”

// The rider was experienced and had no trouble handling the mettlesome horse.

METTLESOME in Context

“My mother was strong, mettlesome—a survivor. We were a lower-middle-class family.” — Patti Smith, quoted in The Guardian, 20 Sep. 2020

Did You Know?

The 17th-century adjective mettlesome (popularly used of spirited horses) sometimes appeared as the variant metalsome. That’s not surprising. In the 16th century and for some time after, mettle was a variant spelling of metal—that is, the word for substances such as gold, copper, and iron. The 16th century was also when metal—or mettle—acquired the figurative sense of “spirit,” “courage,” or “stamina.” However, by the early 18th century, dictionaries were noting the distinction between metal, used for the substance, and mettle, used for “spirit,” so that nowadays the words mettle and mettlesome are rarely associated with metal.

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