Famous Sayings #180 — ‘Fainthearted/Faint of Heart’

February 17, 2020

Car racing can be a dangerous sport. It’s not for the faint of heart.

fainthearted, faint of heart, famous sayings
I guess you can say that being a surgeon is not for the faint of heart. Image by skeeze from Pixabay.

As I was looking up the term half-hearted for the Famous Sayings post I published on Valentine’s Day, I came across some information for the word “fainthearted” and the related term “faint of heart.”

What Does It Mean to Be Fainthearted?

There are many definitions for the term fainthearted. In short, a fainthearted person:

  • Shows their weakness during difficult or intense situations (“What does”).
  • Is not confident or brave and they may dislike taking unnecessary risks (“FAINTHEARTED”).
  • Lacks courage. They are cowardly and timorous (“Fainthearted”).
  • Will easily experience anxiety or stress when faced with an unpleasant situation, a challenge, a risk, or physical strain (“Faint of heart – Idioms”).
  • May feel uncomfortable or become sick when they see graphic imagery (“Faint of heart – Idioms”).
  • Is squeamish, and thus unable to rise to the occasion (Grammarist).
  • Lacks conviction (Lexico).
  • Is irresolute (Various).

Generally, the term “faint of heart” can be used to refer to a group of timid people (Various). Also, when someone says that something that is “not for the fainthearted” or “not for the faint of heart” that person is saying that the thing in question is extreme or very unusual. Therefore, that thing is not suitable for people who only want to deal with the safe and familiar (“Not for the fainthearted”).

Other times, these terms can be used in the humorous sense to say that something is difficult and that it requires a lot of effort (“something is not”).

When Was the Term ‘Fainthearted’ Coined?

Numerous sources that traced the origins of the word “faint-hearted”:

  • According to Dictionary.com, the word fainthearted was first recorded in the early to mid-1400s. The word was derived from the late Middle English word feynt hertyd.
  • Merriam-Webster also said that the term “fainthearted” was first recorded in the 15th
  • Douglas Harper at the Online Etymology Dictionary this word was first recorded in the early 1400s, as well.

Two sources, 7 E S L and The Idioms, added that the word came from the medical field. Those considered “fainthearted” were people with weak hearts or those who could not handle stressful situations.

Am I ‘Fainthearted’?

Yes and no. It depends on what I’m doing/looking at.

Generally, I tend to be timid when I’m unfamiliar with my surroundings and company. When I’m comfortable in a certain situation, I can have an enormous amount of confidence, conviction, and clarity. I will know what to do. Sometimes, though, I have had trouble speaking up for myself, but I know now that doing so is necessary. Not only will I have something good to look back on, but I can send some people a message and make them think twice about being disrespectful.

Now, when it comes to doing difficult tasks, I believe that I can do much of what I set my mind to do. However, the problem is getting my mind ready to do certain tasks. Then, I can get a lot done in short order once I establish a rhythm.

And when it comes to seeing disturbing imagery, I would rather not see gore-y scenes in movies or real life, but I have without being permanently scarred. I’ve just never liked horror films. They’re not my cup of tea, but sometimes, I even find horror scenes in films to be more disturbing than real images. I guess I’m weird like that.

Works Cited

“Faint Heart | Meaning of Faint Heart by Lexico.” Lexico. Oxford University Press, https://www.lexico.com/definition/faint_heart. Accessed 14 February 2020.

“Faint of heart – Idioms by The Free Dictionary.” The Free Dictionary. Farlex, Inc., https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/faint+of+heart. Accessed 14 February 2020.

“faint of heart meaning, definition, examples, origin, synonyms.” The Idioms, https://www.theidioms.com/faint-of-heart/. Accessed 17 February 2020.

“Faint of heart.” Grammarist, https://grammarist.com/phrase/faint-of-heart/. Accessed 14 February 2020.

“Faint of heart.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faint%20of%20heart. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.

“Faint of Heart: What does ‘Faint of Heart’ Mean? with Useful Examples.” 7 E S L, https://7esl.com/faint-of-heart/. Accessed 14 February 2020.

“FAINTHEARTED.” Cambridge English Dictionary. Cambridge University Press, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/fainthearted. Accessed 14 February 2020.

“Fainthearted.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, LLC, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fainthearted. Accessed 14 February 2020.

“Fainthearted.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fainthearted. Accessed 14 Feb. 2020.

Harper, Douglas. “faint-hearted.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/faint-hearted. Accessed 14 February 2020.

“Not for the faint-hearted definition and meaning.” Collins English Dictionary, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/not-for-the-faint-hearted. Accessed 14 February 2020.

“something is not for the faint hearted.” Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE), https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/something-is-not-for-the-faint-hearted. Accessed 17 February 2020.

Various Authors. “faint of heart.” Wiktionary, Updated 29 May 2017, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/faint_of_heart. Accessed 17 February 2020.

Various Authors. “fainthearted.” Wiktionary, Updated 29 September 2019, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fainthearted. Accessed 17 February 2020.


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