What’s one of the secrets of having native-like fluency? A broad vocabulary of course! And not just knowing fancy, formal words, but also the slang and expressions that we use in our daily lives. That said, today we are going to look at some of the most common ways to talk about bravery in English.
Remember that English has one of the largest vocabularies of any language. This is because it has developed from a mélange of many different languages AND a complex history. Pay attention to the etymology of some of these words, which I’ll site below.
These terms are great for expressing your exact thoughts, having richer speech and writing, and complimenting someone.
There is a very famous expression from Latin that says, “Fortune favors the brave.” This means that we create our own luck by making courageous decisions, like the decision to start on the rough journey of learning another language. So, with a little bit of bravery, let’s jump into this lesson!
16 Ways to Talk about Bravery
These terms are listed from most formal to least formal/vulgar
One of the most formal ways to describe bravery, this term is a cognate in many Latin languages like Spanish and Portuguese. It derives from French, meaning to be of value.
In English, it’s an acceptable word to use, but it has a medieval connotation; for example, “The valiant knight in shining armor.”
The opposite of afraid, this is a great term to use to talk about someone who inspires you with his or her courage.
One of the most colloquial ways to talk about one’s valor—interestingly derived from a Latin word meaning barbarous (uncivilized or savage). One could compare this to the word bravo in other Latin languages like Spanish and Italian. You can use this term in any setting.
To be courageous enough to do something, for example, face aversion. This is sometimes used in the negative to either say that someone doesn’t have enough courage (i.e. You wouldn’t dare), or to warn them (Don’t you dare). It can also be used to challenge someone (I dare you to kiss her).
Cultural Note: In the U.S. there is a popular game, especially among children, or sometimes when drinking called Truth or Dare. In this game one must either choose to answer any question honestly or do the challenge that another player gives her.
This term denotes the courage of someone who loves to travel, discover new things, and have new experiences. Someone who is adventurous might explore the jungles of the amazon, taste larva or fried crickets, or try bungee jumping.
Confident can mean having full assurance or is a personality trait of being sure of oneself (Self-confident only means the second). This is a type of bravery in which you are so certain of the outcome that you feel there is no need to have fear. This is a type of bravery that is especially important for language learners. Being confident means that you do not care whether or not you are perfect, you just want a positive, fulfilling result.
Careful: Speakers of Latin languages often confuse this with a false-cognate meaning trustworthy, however, in English, confident only means courageous.
8. Courage (n)/ Courageous (adj.)
There are a couple of expressions using courage. The first is the courage of one’s convictions. This means having the confidence to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially when faced with criticism (for example, despite what all of his friends thought, the courage of his convictions remained strong).
The second is to take one’s courage in both hands. This means to build up the courage needed to perform a certain action (for example, he took his courage in both hands and asked for her number).
9. Guts (n)/Gutsy (adj.)
Guts are literally one’s organs, and in English having them means you are brave. If someone does something that is brave or that we admire we might say, “That was a gutsy move.”
Similar to daring or confident, the most common connotation of bold has to do with courage to do what most would not, without caring what others think. For example: he boldly wore a bright pink tuxedo.
It can also have to do with breaking the rules.
Lastly, there are two expressions. To be so bold means to dare to do something. For example: She was so bold as to discuss politics with the king.
Bold as brass just means extremely bold. Also, Bold as Love:
This is a sort of bravery related to discomfort or pain rather than adventurousness or boldness. For example: I’m not scared of fighting; I’m way tougher than him!
There is a common phrasal verb, tough (something) out, meaning to endure a situation of hardship. For example: She is going to tough out the next few weeks of her terrible job in hopes of getting a promotion.
12. The Man / Manly
Although this is NOT our opinion at RealLife, traditionally, being masculine is associated with bravery and toughness and being feminine is associated with weakness or cowardice.
Therefor, calling someone “The man,” is a term of endearment when someone does something well (even saying it to a woman!). It will also often be collocated as “You da man!”.
Calling someone manly would be similar to tough.
For a good example of this, check out the song the Man by Aloe Blacc:
13. Be a boss
Similar to the previous term, this is a term of endearment for someone who does something very well. You can say that someone is a boss or that someone does something like a boss.
You could also call an action or situation badass. For example: The Karate Kid is a pretty badass movie.
15. Have balls / be ballsy
Another term that shows bravery because of masculinity, these terms literally refer to having testicles. For example: Doing that took a lot of balls or Asking out your ex-girlfriend’s sister was ballsy.
This term is short for motherfucker. Although calling someone a motherfucker can be a very vulgar insult, the abbreviation mofo, when used correctly, is a term of endearment.
You can also say, badass motherfucker (or BAMF), and it is not an insult. For example: Tom Cruise is one badass motherfucker in Mission Impossible.
17 more terms for bravery
- Alpha / alpha-male (n) is someone who is a boss or a leader. For wolves, the alpha-male is the leader of the back–it’s the biggest, baddest wolf that is the most feared and respected.
- Defiant (adj) is having courage to resist or challenge something you think is wrong.
- Gallant (adj): Much like valiant, has a medieval connotation (a gallant knight). A combination of bravery and nobility.
- Grit (n) is abrasive particles (like dirt and sand) and when used to describe one’s character is similar to tough. If one has grit they are strong-spirited, determined, and indomitable.
- Hardy (adj) would be very similar to grit; the opposite of soft.
- Hero (n) / heroic (adj): Someone who fearlessly saves others. Also, heroin (feminine version)
- Keep your Chin up (exp) is an expression used to tell someone not to get discouraged, to stay brave (e.g. Keep your chin up, things will get better).
- Lionhearted (adj): To be courageous, to literally have a heart like a lion.
- Reckless (adj) is doing something brave or daring without thinking of the negative consequences.
- Having Spirit (adj) is similar to having heart. You can also say someone is strong-spirited or has an indomitable spirit.
- Spunky (adj): Spirited
- To have a Stiff upper lip (n) is to be courageous. You can also say keep a stiff upper lip like keep your chin up as encouragement.
- Stomach / strong stomach (n): Like guts. We often say someone has a strong stomach when they can see something horrendous or disgusting without being effected (that is, they do not become nauseous like most people would).
- Sure (adj):
- Venturesome (adj): The same as adventurous.
- Audacious (adj): extremely bold, daring, or even reckless.
- Backbone (n) is the opposite of spineless. Having a backbone means that one is strong and resolute in his convictions.
- Determined (adj): to have strong conviction towards something, unwavering
- Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk (exp) is an expression either describing that someone does not just say they are brave, but actually gives proof (Chad doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk), or as a synonym for “Prove it” (You say you are fluent in Portuguese, but don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk).
- Undaunted (adj): Fearless, not easily discouraged.