c. 1200, cravant "defeated, vanquished, overcome, conquered," apparently adapted from Old French cravent "defeated, beaten," past participle of cravanter "to strike down, to fall down," from Latin crepare "to crack, creak" (see raven). The sense, apparently affected by crave, shifted from "defeated" to "cowardly" (c. 1400) perhaps via intermediary sense of "confess oneself defeated." As a noun, "an acknowledged coward," 1580s. Related: Cravenly; cravenness.
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