Faint of Heart: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
December 11, 2023

The expression "faint of heart" refers to those who lack courage or are easily discouraged, especially when faced with challenging or frightening situations. It's akin to saying, "Not for those who are scared easily." The phrase can be employed in diverse scenarios, from describing a harrowing movie to warning of a challenging endeavor.

In short:

"Faint of heart" generally means someone who is not brave or someone who is easily scared or disturbed.

What Does "Faint of Heart" Mean?

The phrase "faint of heart" captures the essence of those who are easily daunted or lack the courage to face challenges head-on. It paints a vivid picture of hesitation and vulnerability.

Let's delve deeper into its meanings:

  • Lacking in bravery: It often refers to someone not being bold enough to face challenges or difficult situations.
  • Easily disturbed: This means someone who is easily upset by something shocking or gruesome.

Related expressions that convey similar meanings include "not for the squeamish" and "lily-livered."

Where Does "Faint of Heart" Come From?

The term “faint” in this context is derived from the Middle English word “feint”, which means “lacking in courage.” The term “heart” is often used metaphorically in English to refer to courage or bravery, hence “faint of heart” refers to a lack of courage. It is often used in the context of “not for the faint of heart,” implying that the task or situation at hand requires a significant amount of courage or bravery.

Historical Usage

An early form of this saying can be traced back to the Middle English period around 1545 A.D., where it was phrased as:

“A coward verely neuer obteyned the loue of a faire lady”

And later refined in 1614 A.D. to:

"Faint heart neuer wonne faire Lady"

10 Examples of "Faint of Heart" in Sentences

Let's look at various ways this idiom can be used:

  • Holy cow! That roller coaster is not for the faint of heart.
  • Surviving in the wilderness is no task for those faint of heart.
  • If you're faint of heart, you might want to avoid the roller coaster.
  • You scared the hell out of me with that horror prank. Don't do it to others; it's not for the faint of heart.
  • Reading a horror novel late at night is not for the faint of heart.
  • She isn't faint of heart and took on the challenge head-on.
  • That book detailing ancient wars and strategies isn't for the faint of heart.
  • The news is not for the faint of heart.
  • It's a daring venture, not for the faint of heart.
  • Those martoonies pack a punch and aren't for the faint of heart; sip with caution!

Examples of "Faint of Heart" in Pop Culture

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Faint of Heart"

Here are some synonymous expressions:

  • Chicken-hearted
  • Lily-livered
  • Timid
  • Not for the squeamish
  • Weak-kneed

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Faint of Heart":

  • What does "faint of heart" mean?

It refers to someone who lacks the courage or emotional strength to handle difficult situations.

  • Where did the phrase originate?

Its exact origin is unclear, but it has been a part of English literature and historical documents for centuries.

  • Can this phrase be used in a positive way?

Typically, it's used in a more negative or cautionary context. However, context is key, and there might be scenarios where it could have a more neutral or even positive connotation.

  • Is "faint-hearted" the same as "faint of heart"?

Yes, "faint-hearted" is a synonym and carries the same meaning.

  • Are there any famous books or movies that use this idiom?

Yes, it's been referenced in various forms of media, from movies like "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" to TV shows like "Fear Factor."

  • How is the idiom used in everyday speech?

It's often used to caution someone about something that might be disturbing or challenging.

  • Can the term be used literally, relating to an actual heart condition?

While it mainly has a figurative meaning, in some contexts, it could be used more literally, though this is rare.

  • Does the phrase have an opposite or antonym?

"Strong-hearted" or "courageous" might be considered opposites.

  • How common is the usage of this idiom in current times?

It remains a fairly common expression, especially in literature and media where dramatic emphasis is needed.

  • Can the phrase be used in a humorous context?

Yes, depending on the context, it can be used humorously, especially if it's exaggerated for a situation that's not truly challenging.

Final Thoughts About "Faint of Heart"

The phrase "faint of heart" encapsulates timidity or a lack of courage in the face of challenges. Whether you're describing a spine-chilling horror film, a challenging task, or warning someone about a daunting experience, it aptly captures the sentiment.

Here's a quick wrap-up:

  • It highlights emotional or mental resilience.
  • It's been part of the English language for centuries.
  • Used across various media, it resonates with audiences because of its vivid imagery.

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