Mettle is the courage to carry on. If someone wants to "test your mettle," they want to see if you have the heart to follow through when the going gets tough.

Having the mettle to do something means you have guts. In short, you're a pretty impressive person. If you have the intellectual mettle to enter a political debate, not only do you know a lot about politics, but you have the spunk to show it off. Metal and mettle were once used interchangeably meaning a solid material like gold and the "stuff a person is made of" — until everyone got confused and the words went their separate ways.

Definitions of mettle
  1. noun
    the courage to carry on
    synonyms: heart, nerve, spunk
    see moresee less
    type of:
    braveness, bravery, courage, courageousness
    a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without showing fear
Commonly confused words

medal / meddle / mettle

Here we have a trio of words that sound similar (at least in American English) but mean very different things: medal, meddle, and mettle.

Continue reading...

Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week