met·tle (mĕt’l)
n. The ability to meet a challenge or persevere under demanding circumstances; determination or resolve: »

a race that tested the best runners' mettle.

on (one's) mettle Prepared to accept a challenge and do one's best.
[Variant of METAL(Cf. metal).]
Word History: Not only do metal and mettle have exactly the same pronunciation, the two terms are—etymologically, at least—exactly the same word. Middle English borrowed metal from Old French in the 1200s; Old French metal, metail, came from Latin metallum, from Greek metallon, "mine, quarry, ore, metal." By the 1500s, English metal had also come to mean "the stuff one is made of, one's character," but there was no difference in spelling between the literal and figurative senses until about 1700, when the spelling mettle, originally just a variant of metal, was fixed for the sense "strength of character." English has numerous examples of similar word pairs that are (historically speaking) spelling variants of the same word, including flour/flower and lightening/lightning.

Word Histories. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mettle — Met tle, n. [E. metal, used in a tropical sense in allusion to the temper of the metal of a sword blade. See {Metal}.] Substance or quality of temperament; spirit, esp. as regards honor, courage, fortitude, ardor, etc.; disposition; usually in a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mettle — est un EP de Leila sorti en mai 2008 chez Warp Records pour l annonce de son prochain album Blood, Looms and Blooms. Mettle, seul, figure dans l album. Il n existe qu en vinyle, la version cd est une promo. Liste des morceaux Mettle (4:23) Heaven …   Wikipédia en Français

  • mettle — ► NOUN ▪ spirit and resilience in the face of difficulty. ● be on one s mettle Cf. ↑be on one s mettle ORIGIN variant spelling of METAL(Cf. ↑metal) …   English terms dictionary

  • mettle — [met′ l] n. [var. of METAL, used fig.] quality of character or temperament; esp., high quality of character; spirit; courage; ardor on one s mettle roused or prepared to do one s best …   English World dictionary

  • Mettle — Mettle, das, Felsengruppe im Ursernthal des Schweizercantons Uri, um welche sich die Gotthardsstraße windet …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • mettle — index character (personal quality), frame (mood), prowess (bravery), spirit Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • mettle — (n.) 1580s, variant spelling of METAL (Cf. metal), both forms used interchangeably (by Shakespeare and others) in the literal sense and in the figurative one of stuff of which a person is made (1550s) until the spellings and senses diverged early …   Etymology dictionary

  • mettle — *courage, spirit, resolution, tenacity Analogous words: *fortitude, backbone, sand, grit, pluck, guts: nerve, hardihood, *temerity, audacity: gallantry, valor, *heroism …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • mettle — [n] boldness, strength of character animation, ardor, backbone, bravery, caliber, courage, daring, dauntlessness, disposition, energy, fire, force, fortitude, gallantry, gameness, grit*, guts*, hardihood, heart*, indomitability, kidney*, life*,… …   New thesaurus

  • mettle — met|tle [ˈmetl] n [U] [Date: 1500 1600; Origin: metal] 1.) courage and determination to do something even when it is very difficult test/show/prove your mettle ▪ a crisis which will test the prime minister s mettle 2.) on your mettle BrE if you… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • mettle — [[t]me̱t(ə)l[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT: usu poss N Someone s mettle is their ability to do something well in difficult circumstances. His first important chance to show his mettle came when he opened the new session of the Legislature... For both sides,… …   English dictionary

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