The colors and shapes of ‘-liveredness

  • white-livered
  • milk-livered
  • lily-livered
  • pidgeon-livered
  • chicken-livered
  • hot livered

Quotations and Authors:

Let the two edged sword of Gods holy word there asunder the sinowes of worldly respects, euen to the very marrow of thy carnall hart, that thou mayest once againe forsake thy selfe and embrace Christ. And like as good subiects will not refuse to hazard all in the defence of their earthly and temporal Gouernour, so flie not like a white liuered milkesop from the standing wherein thy chiefe captaine Christ hath set thee in array of this life. Viriliter age, confortetur cortuum, sustine dominum. Fight manfully, come life, come death: the quarell is Gods, and vndoubtedly the victory is ours.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Volume 2, Part 1 1563

Some three halfe pennyworth of Latine here also had he throwen at his face, but it was choise stuffe I can tell you, as there is a choise euen amongest ragges gathered vp from the dunghill. At the townes end met him the burgers and dunstical incorporationers of Wittenberg in their distinguished liueries, their distinguished liuerie faces I mene, for they were most of them hot liuered dronkards, and had all the coate coulours of sanguin, purple, crimson, copper, carnation that were to be had in their countenaunces. Filthy knaues, no cost had they bestowed on the town for his welcome, sauing new painted their houghs & bousing houses, which commonly are built fayrer than their Churches, and ouer their gates set the town armes, which sounded gulping after this sort, Vanhotten, slotten, irk bloshen glotten gelderslike: what euer the wordes were, the sense was this, Good drinke is a medicine for all diseases.

The Unfortunate Traveller Nashe, Thomas 1594

I am boy to them all three; but all they three, though they would serve me, could not be man to me; for indeed three such antics do not amount to a man. For Bardolph, he is white-liver’d and red-fac’d; by the means whereof ’a faces it out, but fights not.

Henry the Fifth Shakespeare, William 1599

Milk-liver’d man!
That bear’st a cheek for blows, a head for wrongs;
Who hast not in thy brows an eye discerning
Thine honour from thy suffering; that not know’st
Fools do those villains pity who are punish’d
Ere they have done their mischief.

King Lear Shakespeare, William 1606

Go prick thy face and over-red thy fear,
Thou lily-liver’d boy. What soldiers, patch?
Death of thy soul! those linen cheeks of thine
Are counsellors to fear. What soldiers, whey-face?

Macbeth Shakespeare, William 1606

A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable, finical rogue; one trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.
Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou, thus to rail on one that’s neither known of thee nor knows thee?

King Lear Shakespeare, William 1606

Tweaks me by the nose, gives me the lie i’ th’ throat
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
Ha! ’Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave’s offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!

Hamlet Shakespeare, William 1602

The fellow sent for me to go and see him in gaol. I went, and this is what he says:

‘The fool that defended me is a chicken-livered son of a–and all the rest of it,’ he says. ‘I’ve got a job to be done for me up on the Mountain, and you’re the only man I seen in court that looks as if he’d do it.’ He told me he had a child up there–or thought he had–a little girl; and he wanted her brought down and reared like a Christian. I was sorry for the fellow, so I went up and got the child.” He paused, and Charity listened with a throbbing heart. “That’s the only time I ever went up the Mountain,” he concluded.

There was a moment’s silence; then Harney spoke. “And the child–had she no mother?”

Summer Wharton, Edith 1917

Never had the generous Pierre cherished the heathenish conceit, that even in the general world, Sin is a fair object to be stretched on the cruelest racks by self-complacent Virtue, that self-complacent Virtue may feed her lily-liveredness on the pallor of Sin’s anguish. For perfect Virtue does not more loudly claim our approbation, than repented Sin in its concludedness does demand our utmost tenderness and concern. And as the more immense the Virtue, so should be the more immense our approbation; likewise the more immense the Sin, the more infinite our pity. In some sort, Sin hath its sacredness, not less than holiness. And great Sin calls forth more magnanimity than small Virtue. What man, who is a man, does not feel livelier and more generous emotions toward the great god of Sin Satan,–than toward yonder haberdasher, who only is a sinner in the small and entirely honorable way of trade?

Pierre; or The Ambiguities Melville, Herman 1852

The exact particulars of the similarity never came to light, but apparently the lady had, in a fit of high-minded inadvertence, had gone through the ceremony of marriage with, one quotes the unpublished discourse of Mr. Butteridge–“a white-livered skunk,” and this zoological aberration did in some legal and vexatious manner mar her social happiness. He wanted to talk about the business, to show the splendour of her nature in the light of its complications. It was really most embarrassing to a press that has always possessed a considerable turn for reticence, that wanted things personal indeed in the modern fashion.

The War in the Air Wells, Herbert George 1907

If we had to choose between Napoleon, in the shape of Ben Cooley, or Lenin, in the lack-of-shape of Willie Struthers, we should be hard put to it to know which was worse. Whereupon a fierce blast about our returned heroes and the white-livered skulkers who had got themselves soft jobs as coast-watchers, watching that the sharks didn’t nibble the rocks, and now dared lift their dishonourable croaks against the revered name of Digger. And a ferocious rush-in from Labour, which didn’t see much Napoleon in Ben Cooley, except the belly and the knack of filling his pockets. Napoleon, though but a Dago and not a Jew, had filled one of the longest pockets Europe had ever emptied herself into, so where would poor little Australia be when the sham Kangaroo, with the help of the Magpies, which were indeed strictly Butcher Birds, started to coin her into shekels?

Kangaroo Lawrence, D. H. 1923

‘Why, that’s right!’ cried Quilp. ‘Half our work is done already. This Kit is one of your honest people; one of your fair characters; a prowling prying hound; a hypocrite; a double-faced, white-livered, sneaking spy; a crouching cur to those that feed and coax him, and a barking yelping dog to all besides.’

It was so thoughtful of you, so penitent, so good. Oh, if we were face to face in this room again, my white-livered man of law, how well contented one of us would be!’

The Old Curiosity Shop Dickens, Charles 1841

Explore other examples of white-livered in Dickens.