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Lilly Livered

Posted by James Briggs on May 17, 2004

In Reply to: Lilly Livered posted by Lewis on May 17, 2004

: : Can anyone please tell me where the term ' lilly livered' came from ?

: : Thanks in advance.
: : Pauline

: Lilies are usually white, liver is full of blood and should be dark red/brown. to be "lily-livered" is to be lacking in full-bloodedness, sangfroid or other attribute based upon being bloody, bold and absolute. doubtless The Bard made reference to it.

He's lily livered is a saying used to describe a coward or weakling. The ancient Greeks used to sacrifice an animal before battle. The liver was regarded as a prime omen; if red then all was fine but if pale then this signified bad tidings. By extension the liver of a coward was thought to be pale and lily livered was one of the ways of describing this. Others were "white livered" and "pigeon livered".