17

Somehow I am compelled to use the word "metal" to describe strong "intestinal fortitude", and perseverance however I can't find the spelling or any synonym like this.

Does a word that sounds like "metal" exist when describing an individual's character?

I'm looking for modern or historic usage of the word.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, alwayslearning, Kris, NVZ, RaceYouAnytime Jul 19 '17 at 18:02

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Jul 19 '17 at 17:12
  • 1
    You said you can't find any synonym like it. Please briefly summarize your research in your answer, and I will vote to reopen it, as I think will others. – ab2 Jul 19 '17 at 18:56
  • I did search for synonyms, but not homonyms. I forgot homonym was a 'thing'. I'm okay with the outcome as it stands and will let meta do as it wishes with this question. Thanks! – goodguys_activate Jul 19 '17 at 21:58
45

Mettle

Defined by Oxford Dictionaries as:

a person's ability to cope well with difficulties; spirit and resilience.

It is commonly seen in the phrase:

(put someone) on their mettle

meaning,

(of a demanding situation) test someone's ability to face difficulties.

‘there were regular public meetings where local MPs were put on their mettle and remorselessly pilloried’

Source: ODO

Other constructions are possible too, for example:

test their mettle, apparently an American version (thanks, @PeterCordes)

show your mettle, etc.


Origins

According to Merriam-Webster, mettle was, as @Sparhawk points out in the comments, originally simply a variant spelling of the word metal (which dates to at least the 13th century), and it was used in all of the same senses as its metallic relative. Over time, however, mettle came to be used mainly in figurative senses referring to the quality of someone's character, with a first known usage in 1581. Today, both words can mean "vigor and strength of spirit or temperament," but only metal is used of metallic substances.

  • 7
    Interesting aside: both homonyms have the same etymology. – Sparhawk Jul 19 '17 at 14:04
  • So interesting, and very cool @Sparhawk – goodguys_activate Jul 19 '17 at 14:11
  • 3
    I've usually heard "test their mettle". I'm Canadian. Putting someone "on their mettle" sounds like British usage. – Peter Cordes Jul 19 '17 at 16:56
  • @PeterCordes Thanks, I am British, which may explain it! – marcellothearcane Jul 19 '17 at 16:58
  • 2
    Agree with @PeterCordes, as an American English speaker I've never heard "on their mettle" either. – Nuclear Wang Jul 19 '17 at 17:16
8

Steely - (Of a person, his qualities, etc) Hard and cold as steel, unimpressionable, inflexible, obdurate (OED).

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • 10
    I had to laugh when the answer 'Steely' was posted by 'Dan' – Kik Jul 19 '17 at 16:14

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.